Sent to LRS by POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti
As a result of the continuous and peaceful resistance of people of Odisha and overwhelming support from people across the country, POSCO was forced to withdraw its project from the state. However, the repression against people is still continuing. On December 19th, 2017, police arrested two vgers under various charges, and put them behind bars. A case has also been registered against one of the leading agitators Babula Samalviz.
File photos of protest against steel plant in Odisha
The prime objective of repression is to sabotage the democratic movement and hand over the acquired land to JSW Steel Limited. It has been reported in the media that the government of Odisha is planning to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to hand over the land to JSW Steel Limited. The Odisha government is helping corporate houses to avoid direct confrontation with those who will lose their land by floating a land bank through Industrial Development Corporation of Odisha (IDCO). This is an unconstitutional body, which has been set up to promote ruthless land grabbing in the interests of private corporate interests.
POSCO Pratirodh Sangharsh Samiti (PPSS) is waging struggle against this land grabbing and to provide legal defence for a total of 420 individuals who have been charged under various sections. Further warrants have been issued against 1500 people, including 500 women. About 400 cases have been registered against 2500 who are living under the fear of getting arrested anytime.
People are barred from going out of the village even in case of emergency treatment and fear arrest. This has resulted in complete lack of access to medicines and medical treatment for villagers. There are no doctors who visit the villages, and no health centers in the vicinity, and the virtual siege of the village prevents villagers from seeking medical assistance from outside. This is particularly difficult for women as they find it difficult in even carrying out their regular daily chores that demand them to move within or outside the village. Women leader Manorama Kathua from Dhinkia village had not left the village for past 10 years for fear of being arrested, and if she had to go out, it has to be done in great secrecy. She is suffering from severe joint pain, but could not visit any doctor, as that would put her in the risk of being arrested.
The arrest of some of the members of the PPSS has resulted in tragic consequences for families. One Prakash Jena, who was arrested on 12th September 2008, lost his mother, when she committed suicide in despair. His sister became mentally depressed and continues to suffer from severe depression. His brother Manas Jena was killed by hired goons of the company. Altogether four persons have lost their lives due to attack by hired goons of the company.
The siege of the villagers has an obvious impact on their relationships, especially their interaction with the outside world. They are unable to meet their families, and relatives.
It has also impacted their livelihood. Since most of the villagers are into Beetle vine cultivation, they need to maintain ties with traders in Bombay, Calcutta and other cities, where their produce is sold. However, the inability to leave the village and maintain business ties has adversely impacted their trade which is the major source of livelihood for them.
However, despite an atmosphere of state terror, threats, repression and intimidation, the people of Govindapaur village in its Palli Sabha (Village Council) unanimously resolved on December 6, 2017 that land will not be allowed to be handed over to IDCO for any purpose and it demanded implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006.
The demands are as follows:
1. The government should stop all types of repression on people and withdraw all false and fabricated cases against our people.
2. The government must also immediately stop the construction of a boundary wall around the land and allow communities to access common lands that we have traditionally depended on for our livelihoods.
3. Urgently process individual and community forest rights claims on land it had taken over for a POSCO project instead of transferring the land to a land bank.
4. The government of Odisha must follow the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Singur issue in which the land of farmers bought for the Tata Nano plant was returned to them.
5. The government needs to replant the trees in our sensitive coastal areas where more than two lakh trees were indiscriminately cut down by the Government for POSCO.
6. Proper and adequate compensation should be paid by the government to the widows and children and the injured family members attacked by POSCO goons in the year 2008 and 2013
7. A committee consisting of sensitive jurists, human rights advocates, activists, ecologists and ecological economists should be formed to keep a watch on what the government is doing in the area just to promote corporate interests at a huge cost to our native people and their permanent sources of livelihoods which are part of an ecologically sensitive coastal zone.