It’s an attempt to obstruct the proposed steel mill, says the official

Jagatsinghpur district administration has dismissed the resolution passed in gram sabha of Dhinkia gram panchayat charging that it is an attempt to obstruct the proposed mega steel mill by South Korean POSCO.

The gram sabha resolution, passed as part of the State government’s Gram Sabha Sasakti Karan Yojna on October 18 last, had opposed diversion of forestland stating it was violating the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

Jagatsinghpur Collector Satya Kumar Mallick submitted a four-page rebuttal in response to the resolution which was submitted by Prasant Paikray, spokesperson of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, to the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

The gram sabha resolution stated that the process of determination, claim making and recognition of rights which included individual rights, community rights and rights to community forest resources in the village had not been completed as far as implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, was concerned.

Reiterating the State government’s earlier stand, Mr. Mallick said since no tribal or eligible other traditional forest dweller was residing in that area, settling rights did not merit under the Forest Rights Act.

On the issue of other forest dwellers depending on forest resources for 75 years, the Jagatsinghpur Collector said the area was wasteland prior to 1961 and formed part of protected forest after that, so possession on forestland for 75 years did not qualify. He further stated that seasonal collection of fruits and erecting betel vine cannot be treated as community rights.

“It’s forest land”

“Gram sabha resolution of Dhinkia gram panchayat is nothing but a well-thought out attempt to constrict development of locality in general and obstruct POSCO project work in particular having no merit so far as implantation of Forest Rights Act is concerned,” Mr. Mallick pointed out.

PPSS has ridiculed the district administration’s report in response to gram sabha resolution. PPSS spokesperson Mr. Paikray said, “we have scores of authentic government reports stating that the area was forestland. Forest Survey of India Report also clearly establishes the fact that the area was forestland.”

“Regarding the existence of tribal families, the government should refer to its own record. There are seven tribal families living in Polanga village. They possess voter ID cards. The post of Samiti Sabhya of Gadakujanga panchayat is also reserved for tribal community. The State government has submitted false report,” he said.

The PPSS also questioned the present land acquisition for the mega steel mill. “When the environment clearance has expired since long, cutting of trees for facilitating project is a gross violation of law. Moreover, the memorandum of understanding for the project is no more valid. Under these circumstances, acquiring land at breakneck speed raise suspicions,” Mr. Paikray said.

The PPSS is of the view that the State government was worried ever since the Supreme Court ordered that bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hill range should be decided on basis of gram sabha resolution. By submitting misleading report, the State government exhibited that it was in a hurry to acquire land for obvious reasons.