This is the 3rd video in our series of voices from Dhinkia, Odisha where the people have been struggling to keep their land from being forcefully acquired by POSCO. 22nd June marks the 8th year of their struggle and will be observed as black day.
On 22nd June 2005 the Government of Odisha signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the South Korean Steel Company POSCO enabling the latter to set up an integrated steel plant and captive port in Jagatsinghpur District Odisha.
Since its inception the project has been met with resistance by the people of Jagatsighpur, who stand to lose the land on which they have depended for generations.
The proposed area for the steel plant is home to a flourishing and sustainable local economy. The unique soil and high water table make for ideal conditions to support betel leaf cultivation, shrimp farms, rice paddies, cashew plantations etc. The project will destroy all of this.
20,000 families in Jagatsinghpur District stand to lose the livelihoods on which they have depended for generations. POSCO claims that the project will generate massive economic benefits and jobs for the people in the area. These will in no way match the existing levels of economic sustainability among the people. One resident expresses this concern,
“There is no other area in the world where a leaf has such worth. If I sell 40,000 leaves a month then I earn Rs.40,000. What can the government and POSCO offer me that is better than that? If I need to leave then I lose it all.”
The loss of livelihoods will also translate into a loss of human rights, as the people will be dependant on POSCO to create jobs for them. While most continue to hold on to their lands some have successfully been ousted.
An incidence of violence in 2007 forced 52 families into a transit camp where they have been living for the past 6 years. From being self-sufficient, these families are now pushed to the verge of destitution and economic dependence. They survive on a dole out of Rs 20 a day- an amount inadequate to put even basic food on their plates.
The living conditions of the camp are also far from ideal— small cubbyholes with no proper sanitation, health care or privacy. The residents seriously question the ability of POSCO to provide housing for the other people who will be displaced, given that they cannot even do so for 52 families.
Clearly both, the Government of Odisha and POSCO have failed to meet their obligation to safeguard and respect the human rights of the people who will be affected by this project. ‘Development’ and ‘Economic growth’ are often rationales cited for such projects. But what is the use of development when a thriving, self-sustainable way of life crumbles into one of impoverishment and dependence?
For more background information on the movement read here