JAGATSINGHPUR, ODISHA: At 4AM on 3rd February 2013, twelve platoons of police forcefully entered villages, Dhinkia and Govindpur to take over forest land. These villages have been at the centre of a seven year long resistance movement against the Korean steel company POSCO which seeks to build a port and a steel plant in Jagatsinghpur District. Worth 12 Billion, the project stands to be the largest Foreign Direct Investment in India.
On entering the village, police targeted women and children first. At least 6 women, children and elderly people were seriously injured; 50 people were arbitrarily detained and one arrested-- anti-POSCO activist and IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent, Debendra Swain.
The police also started cutting down the betel leaf plantations of the villages which are the main source of income for the people. Our Community Correspondents on the ground say that the affected residents are facing serious threats to their lives and security.
A week ago Debendra had sent in the following video which documents the voices of the people on the ground and their reasons for opposing the land acquisition. While joining the IndiaUnheard team he had said he wants to document the people's movement and its harsh consequences on them.
Video Volunteers has been working with the people’s movement in Odisha for some time now. We have been documenting the statements of the people who will be most affected by the POSCO plant.
“ We are not telling the company (POSCO) not to enter Odisha, they can come, but not here where we have our livelihoods.” Outraged she continues, “They bring authorities and point guns in our faces,” says a resident of the village.
Around 4000 families who will be affected by the project do not want their home and livelihood sources to be ceded for construction of the integrated steel plant.The Gram Sabhas-Assembly of elders in the village/Panchayat, of the concerned villages have time and again reiterated their opposition to any acquisition of their land as the people will lose forest land, water bodies and rice-paddies in the area, which are important sources of livelihood.
There is evidence of the land acquisition being unconstitutional as it violates the Forest Rights Act 2006 which states that no forest land can be diverted without the informed consent of the gram sabha (village council). The National Green Tribunal has suspended the environmental clearance given to the project. The actions of the government of Odisha with the support of the police and POSCO clearly violate several international human rights treaties, which have been ratified by India.
Despite overwhelming evidence of the illegalities and unconstitutionality in acquiring land against the people's consent, the Jagatsinghpur District Collector SK Mallick made a public statement to the media on 28th December 2012 that the acquisition would be resumed.
Six years ago, 52 families who were forcefully evicted from Dhinkia Panchayat now live in make shift shelters built by POSCO. What was meant to be a transit camp is now their permanent residence. Some of them are given a dole of Rs.20/- per day, which is insufficient to meet even basic needs.
The protest of the people has been peaceful and has been met with armed police force. Police presence has been gradually swelling in the area since early January 2013 amidst continued protest by the locals who have formed a human chain and have been sitting on strike. 3rd February’s unwarranted attack has taken things to a new level.
Appeal from Prashant Paikary, Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti:
“As the situation gets increasingly alarming, we appeal all our friends to protest against the barbarism and call/write/fax to the Prime Minister, Chief Minister of Odisha and Chief Secretary of Odisha, Home Minsitry, Odisha appealing them to immediately stop the police brutality and withdrawal of the force from our area. We request our media friends to rush to our villages and see the situation with their own eyes and report it.”
We at Video Volunteers urge you to sign the petition on change.org and call the following authorities and:
Ask why this use of force was sanctioned on 3rd February 2013-02-03
Release Debendra Swain. Also ask him to drop the false charges filed against the other 230 individuals and several prominent leaders of the anti- POSCO movement.
How many people have been injured and what treatment are they receiving
Demand for an immediate withdrawal of forces from the area.