Today's Paper

After nine years, villagers opposing POSCO plant vote

Villagers resisting setting up of a mega steel plant by South Korean steel major POSCO cast their votes after nine years here on Thursday.

Villagers opposed to land acquisition, however, sought to clarify that their participation in voting should not be seen as softening of their stand.

Members of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) said they would continue the agitation against ‘forcible’ land acquisition though the Jagtsinghpur district administration was considering facilitation of election at Dhinkia, the nerve centre of anti-POSCO movement, a big success.

In the morning, although the polling party encountered a technical glitch in EVMs, polling started around 8 am. Soon brisk polling was witnessed in two booths set up at Dhinkia Primary School here. By noon, around 30 per cent voters had turned out to exercise their franchise. There are about 2,771 enlisted voters in two booths.

The Odisha government had signed a memorandum of understanding with POSCO on June 22, 2005 for setting up of 12-mtpa capacity steel plant over 4004 acres at an estimated cost of Rs. 52,000 crore. Soon people started an agitation against the proposal alleging that the land acquisition would snatch away their sustainable livelihood.

The resistance in Dhinkia was particularly very strong. People had even erected barricades and restricted entry of government officials into their village. For years, government employees, including police, could not access the village. On its part, police too had slapped several criminal cases against villagers for their reported involvement in violent movement against the steel plant.

Previous election

During the last elections in 2009, when people’s resistance to POSCO’s steel plant was at peak, a polling booth could not be set up at Dhinkia. Villagers were requested to cast their votes in a booth established at Trilochanpur, a few km away from Dhinkia. Many villagers did not come out of their village fearing arrests and could not vote.

Villagers had last participated in 2005 panchayat election. The Government did not notify 2012 panchayat election at Dhinkia due to the troubled situation.

“This year, after district administration assured villages who are facing criminal charges for protesting against setting up of the steel plant near their village, that they would not be arrested, we allowed two booths in Dhinkia,” said PPSS President Abhaya Sahoo here. Mr. Sahoo said, “Participation of people in election should not be construed that we are ready to welcome establishment of steel plant. The struggle against forcible land acquisition will continue till the State government drops the idea of the steel plant on fertile land.”

Jagatsinghpur Superintendent of Police Satyabrata Bhoi said polling in Dhinkia was peaceful.

“Struggle against forcible land acquisition will continue”

Villagers had last participated in 2005 panchayat election