India: Police poise to forcibly evict villagers for POSCO's project
Thousands are at risk of death and injury
Late last week, thousands of villagers lay down (literally) on land coveted by POSCO for India's biggest planned industrial project in Orissa, in an attempt to prevent hundreds of armed police from evicting them.
|Children and women prepare to resist POSCO eviction: The Hindu
As we went to press the villagers - supported by delegates from five of the country's leftwing political parties - were still occupying their territory, and the police had withdrawn a short distance.
However this was not before they allegedly destroyed fields used for growing betel nut. And the police inspector in charge has made it clear that he is only awaiting an order by the state government before removing the people, by force if necessary.
On Saturday 11 June, India's minister for environment and forests (MoEF), Jairam Ramesh expressed the "hope" that the Orissa government "will not use this clearance (sic) as a license for forcible acquisition of land. This was neither the intent nor the purpose of the clearance given by the MoEF..."
Two days earlier, over 30 prominent Indian academicians and civil society members demanded the Prime Minister prevail upon the state government to stop the land takeover, which they declared was "illegal" and a violation of the country's Forest Rights Act.
The local organisation, set up to fight the POSCO project, made its own position abundantly clear:
"We will fight to the last. Our fight is not just for our lands but for the future of our country, to save it from the criminal cabal who extract the blood of our people, our lands and our forests to sell it to the highest bidder.
"We call on all citizens who care for India to join us in our fight for justice and real democracy in this country".
Readers are invited to support their struggle by signing a petition organised by India's Campaign for Survival and Dignity:
Previous article on MAC: India's National Advisory Council wants radical advances on implementing community rights
Police try to Forcibly Evict Farmers in India
Amnesty International Urgent Action - Further information on UA: 147/11 Index: ASA 20/028/2011
10 June 2011
On 10 June, police marched into Govindpur village, Jagatsinghpur district, Orissa state, India, intending to forcibly evict farmers from common land. After several hours of tense but peaceful protest by villagers, the police retreated, threatening to return soon to continue the eviction.
An estimated 4,000 families from four villages of Jagatsinghpur district in Orissa state, in India, are under threat of being forcibly evicted from common land used for farming and cultivation. The farmers and their families are dependent on this land for their livelihood and some families also live there.
|Police assemble at 11th POSCO Site: photo from The Hindu
On 10 June, about 1,000 police officials in riot gear, some of them armed, marched into Govindpur village in Jagatsinghpur district, intending to begin the eviction. About 2,000 protestors demonstrated peacefully against the police officials, leading to a tense situation for four hours. Due to intense afternoon heat, five demonstrators - two women and three children - and two police officials fainted, following which the policemen retreated for the day, after threatening the villagers that the forced evictions would be carried out soon.
On 18 May, about 150 policemen in riot gear, some of them armed, forcibly evicted at least 200 farmers from Polong and Noliasahi villages and destroyed betel vines (an Asian plant whose leaves are often chewed in India) and farming sheds on common land.
Orissa state authorities are carrying out the forced evictions as part of their plan to acquire 1,600 hectares in five villages, the majority of which are common lands. This is to make way for the proposed US$12 billion steel plant involving South Korean steel giant POSCO, the biggest foreign direct investment project in India. The authorities did not consult with the local communities or the local bodies or issue notices to the farmers. The authorities contended that there was no need to issue prior notice for acquiring common lands "as they belonged to the government." They also announced that the farmers would be eligible for maximum compensation which would be calculated for the crops lost during the land acquisition process, but so far the families been provided with no compensation.
PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in English or your own language:
Urging the authorities to stop all forced evictions in Jagatsinghpur district and to ensure that any evictions are carried out in accordance with international human rights standards, including genuine consultation to identify alternatives to evictions, due process safeguards and the provision of adequate compensation and adequate alternative land for farming;
- Urging them to provide all the families who were forcibly evicted with access to effective remedies;
- Calling on them to put measures in place to ensure that the authorities carry out a comprehensive human rights and environmental impact assessment of the POSCO project, in consultation with the local communities;
- Asking them to ensure that no work begins on the project until these steps are taken and the communities' human rights are protected
Please Send Appeals Before 22 July to:
Prime Minister's Office
152, South Block,
New Delhi 110 001, India
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
Chief Minister of Orissa
Bhubaneswar 751001, India
Salutation: Dear Chief Minister
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the first update of UA 147/11. Further information: http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA20/020/2011/en
"The authorities are going ahead with evictions at gunpoint. In the early hours of 18 May, 150 police officials entered Polonga village and started destroying betel vines in the common forest lands on which at least 200 farmers are dependent; they want to take over 1,600 hectares, the majority of which are common lands, in coastal Orissa for the biggest foreign investment project in India, brushing aside our rightful claims."
- Abhay Sahoo, leader of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samithi, Dhinkia village, Orissa
As per India's Forest Rights Act, 2008, common lands refers to village property which falls under the authority and sanction of local bodies and is intended to be used by local communities. Local communities have filed claims over the lands under the Act. The only public consultation done was in April 2007 when the above act had not come into effect.
Earlier this year, the Orissa state authorities failed to settle local communities' claims over common lands despite two official investigations, ordered by India's Ministry of Environment and Forests, which raised serious concerns about the authorities' attempts to acquire these common lands. These investigations also revealed that the proposed steel project had violated national environmental laws and coastal regulations and that the potential negative impact on local community livelihoods had not been adequately assessed. Despite these findings, the central authorities accepted the Orissa state authorities' declaration that that no local communities living in the area have rights to the common lands.
Since June 2005, local communities in Jagatsinghpur district have protested the possible displacement and potential threats to their livelihoods from the POSCO project. Protestors have often erected barricades in the area and prevented officials from entering these villages. In June 2008, one protestor, Dula Mandal, was killed by a bomb during a clash between critics and supporters of the project. In May 2010 at least 20 protestors sustained gunshot wounds when police used excessive force against them.
The steel project is scheduled to go ahead as soon as the authorities physically acquire the necessary land.
FU on UA: 147/11 Index: ASA 20/028/2011 Issue Date: 10 June 2011
PM moved against land acquisition for POSCO project
Times News of India
9 June 2011
BHUBANESWAR: Over 30 prominent academicians and civil society members of India have demanded the Prime Minister to prevail upon the state government to stop land acquisition for the Posco project. They alleged land is being acquired by threatening villagers through police.
"We call upon you to immediately ask the Orissa government to stop this, withdraw all clearances given in violation of the law and to take an impartial stand in the court cases filed by the people. Failure to stop this attack will show that the UPA government's much vaunted concern towards displacement, forest rights and "inclusive growth" simply as an eyewash," they said in a joint letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent on Tuesday.
The letter condemned the "outrageous and illegal attempt by the Orissa government, with the connivance and support of the Centre, to attack and seize the land of villagers affected by the proposed Posco project."
It cited the June 3 incident when 17 people, including five children, were arrested and beaten by police because they refused to allow the destruction of their farms. "We also understand that the administration has been announcing through loudspeakers that they will use force against anyone who does not submit to the takeover of their land within the next 24 hours," the letter said adding 24 platoons of police had been deployed "probably for use in a brute force attempt at taking the land of the villages of Dhinkia and Gobindpur", who had been "peacefully protesting" opposing land acquisition. "This is occurring even as cases by the villagers are pending in the Orissa High Court and are due to be heard shortly," it pointed out.
The letter said it had been "repeatedly shown and accepted by three different official committees that the takeover of this land is illegal and in violation of the Forest Rights Act." "The Environment Ministry has violated the law and its own orders and stated as much when giving the clearance," the letter observed.
It reminded the Prime Minister that "in February of this year the National Advisory Council had specifically asked you to ensure that the practice of handing over forest land to companies in gross violation of this landmark law, as you yourself described it, should be halted and action taken against the officials responsible."
The signatories included: Deep Joshi, Aruna Roy, Aman Biradari, Dr. Madhav Gadgil, members of the National Advisory Council; Harsh Mander, Arvind Kejriwal, Parivartan India and India Against Corruption; Dr. B D Sharma, Bharat Jan Andolan and former commissioner for SC/STs, Government of India; Medha Patkar, Justice Rajinder Sachar of People's Union for Civil Liberties and former chief justice of Delhi High Court; Swami Agnivesh, Binayak Sen, advocate Prashant Bhushan, Maj Gen S.G. Vombatkare (Retd), Vandana Shiva, Prof. Kamal Chenoy of JNU, Prof. Ilina Sen, Prof. K. Satchidanandan, Dr. K S Subramanian (IPS), Suhas Borkar, Prof. Anuradha Chenoy of JNU; Manoranjan Mohanty, Dr. Walter Fernandes, Dr. Mira Shiva; Madhu Bhaduri, former diplomat; Dr. Sandeep Pandey, Thomas Kocherry, Xavier Dias; Sumit Chakravarty, Mainstream; Ashish Kothari and Dr. Bela Bhatia.
POSCO: Former Judges, NAC Members, Social Activists Demand Immediate Action to Halt Attack
6 June 2011
To: Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India
New Delhi 110 001
Sub: Demand immediate action to halt attack on peaceful protesters of proposed POSCO project area
Dear Dr. Manmohan Singh
We condemn the outrageous and illegal attempt by the Odisha [Orissa] government, with the connivance and support of the Centre, to attack and seize the land of the villagers affected by the proposed POSCO project. We understand that on June 3rd, 17 people - including five children - were arrested and beaten by the police because they refused to allow the destruction of their farms. We also understand that the administration has been announcing through loudspeakers that they will use force against anyone who does not submit to the takeover of their land within the next 24 hours.
Thousands of people are peacefully protesting while 24 platoons of police have been deployed in the area, probably for use in a brute force attempt at taking the land of the villages of Dhinkia and Gobindpur TODAY - Monday, June 6th - or in the coming days. This is occurring even as court cases by the villagers are pending in the Orissa High Court and are due to be heard shortly.
This attack on the lives and livelihoods of thousands is doubly outrageous because it has been repeatedly shown, and accepted by three different official committees, that the takeover of this land is illegal and in violation of the Forest Rights Act. The Environment Ministry has violated the law and its own orders and stated as much when giving the clearance. We note that in February of this year the National Advisory Council had specifically asked you to ensure that the practice of handing over forest land to companies in gross violation of this "landmark law", as you yourself described it, should be halted and action taken against the officials responsible.
Further, the project is proceeding despite the fact that an official committee said it had "potentially disastrous impacts" on the environment that could "cause loss of life"; and after an independent study showed that it would lead to a net loss of employment, destitution and impoverishment of around 50,000 people while producing no benefits for the local economy. Indeed, there is such a pattern of illegality around this project that five prominent anti-corruption activists have recently called for an investigation into "criminal collusion" between government officials and the company.
We call upon you to immediately ask the Odisha government to halt this illegal attack, to withdraw all clearances given in violation of law, and to take an impartial position in the court cases filed by the people. Failure to stop this attack will show that the UPA government's much vaunted concern over issues of displacement, forest rights and "inclusive growth" is simply
Deep Joshi, PRADHAN and Member, National Advisory Council
Aruna Roy, Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti and Member, National Advisory
Kavita Srivastava, People's Union for Civil Liberties
Harsh Mander, Aman Biradari and Member, National Advisory Council
Dr. Madhav Gadgil, Ecological Scientist and Member, National Advisory Council
Arvind Kejriwal, Parivartan India and India Against Corruption
Dr. B.D. Sharma, Bharat Jan Andolan and former Commissioner for SC/STs, Government of India
Dr. Amit Bhaduri, Council for Social Development
Medha Patkar, National Alliance of People's Movements
Justice Rajinder Sachar, People's Union for Civil Liberties and former Chief Justice, Delhi High Court
Swami Agnivesh, World Council of Arya Samaj
Dr. Binayak Sen
Adv. Prashant Bhushan, Campaign for Judicial Accountability
Maj Gen S.G. Vombatkare (Retd), NAPM - Karnataka
Dr. Vandana Shiva, Navdanya
Dr. Kamal Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Dr. Ilina Sen
Dr. K S Subramanian, IPS
Dr. Anuradha Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Dr. Manoranjan Mohanty, Council for Social Development
Dr. Walter Fernandes, North Eastern Social Research Centre
Dr. Mira Shiva
Sandeep Pandey, National Alliance for People's Movements
Thomas Kocherry, National Fishworkers Forum
Dr. Xavier Dias, BIRSA, Jharkhand
Dr. Sumit Chakravarty, Mainstream
Criminal Government Announces Attack within 24 Hours Time
POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti release
Villages Dhinkia, Gadkujang, Nuagaon; Erasama Block, Jagatsinghpur District, Odisha
Women, Children Beaten; Thousands Assembled on Village Border to Resist; Betel Vine Farms Illegally Destroyed, District Administration Threatening People Over Loudspeakers
3 June 2011
Today, following two weeks of illegal land grabbing on the fringes of the POSCO area, the administration has announced it will begin the attack on the main area tomorrow, namely the gram panchayat of Dhinkia, containing more than 2/3rds of the land for the project. Seventeen people - eight men, four women and five children - were arrested and beaten up today for opposing the illegal destruction of their betel vines in the village of Noliasahi, on the coast. The administration is now sending loudspeakers on vehicles around the area, threatening people with the use of force if they do not consent to the destruction of their farms within 24 hours. More than 2,000 people have assembled on the border of Dhinkia panchayat to defend their homes and lands and more are joining. The attack in the other villages is also expected tomorrow.
The sheer criminal, corrupt venality of this government is shown by the fact that these children, women and men were arrested even as the case filed by villagers was scheduled for hearing in the High Court today. The matter did not reach and is now posted by the 8th. It is clear that the government intends to try to use maximum force to complete the task before the 8th and present the court with a fait accompli.
The Congress at the Centre and the BJD in Odisha have shown their true colours. Shedding crocodile tears in Bhatta Parsaul, talking of anti-corruption while breaking every law to favour corporates, putting up "green Ministers" like Jairam Ramesh whose only job is to cover up crimes; all these lies stand torn to shreds in our lands today. Even after official committees, anti-corruption activists, and protesters from Dhinkia to South Korea to New York have exposed the evil of this project, our people are facing the guns of the police for doing nothing except upholding justice.
We will fight to the last. Our fight is not just for our lands but for the future of our country, to save it from the criminal cabal who extract the blood of our people, our lands and our forests to sell it to the highest bidder. We call on all citizens who care for India to join us in our fight for justice and real democracy in this country.
Prashant Paikray, Spokesperson, 09437571547