Peoples' struggles against POSCO broaden in India - and beyond
New tribal minister promises to "veto" Orissa project
One of the Congress party's oldest, and best-respected, member is now the new Cabinet Minister of Tribal and Panchayati Raj Affairs in India's central (union) government.
Last week, Vyricherla Kishore Chandra Suryanarayana Deo reportedly "vetoed" the POSCO steel project in Orissa - citing the requirement to fully implement the country's Forest Rights Act.
Mr Deo was born into the Konda Dorsa Scheduled Tribe community in northern Andhra Pradesh at the time of the country's independence in 1947. He also served as the union minister of state for steel, mines and coal in 1979-80.
Last Saturday (16 July 2011) another attempt was made by police to take over land earmarked as part of the Orissa POSCO project - this time at Nuagaon village. See previous article on MAC: India: POSCO protests successful - for now
Although the district administration denies force was used, members of local resistance organisations claim that scores of male police charged the mainly female villagers, causing several injuries.
The two accounts appear in agreement on one thing: that the police were eventually forced to retreat.
Meanwhile, another group of India farmers, confronted with a planned POSCO steel plant in the southern state of Karnataka, have pledged to resist any forced acquisition of their land.
And, from a South Korean jail, a woman activist accused of "interrupting" construction of a naval base in her home country, has expressed solidarity with those fighting POSCO in India.
Says Ms Sung-Hee Choi: "I could but feel great sadness and anger over the fact that a big South Korean conglomerate is to rob of and to destroy your lands.
"The POSCO is one of the big, infamous corporations, along with Samsung, which has oppressed its workers, with its no-labor union policy".
New tribal minister opposes Posco project
By Subodh Ghildiyal
Times of India
15 July 2011
NEW DELHI: Newly-appointed tribal affairs minister V Kishore Chandra Deo on Thursday gave a boost to anti-mining activism by vetoing the Posco project in Orissa and also said that bauxite mining cannot be allowed just because the mineral deposits are under the houses of poor tribals.
|Children prepare to resist POSCO eviction. Source: The Hindu|
Deo, who as Congress MP successfully lobbied against bauxite mining in his constituency in Vishakhapatnam, hailed the decision to stop Vedanta in Niyamgiri hills and even vetoed Posco in Orissa. "I am thankful to Rahul Gandhi for stopping Vedanta. Niyamgiri hills are sacred for locals and the source of two rivers which pass through my constituency Araku. My people would have suffered if mining was allowed there," he told TOI.
Deo's words are set to add to the fresh "development vs welfare" debate, with another minister sceptical of mining in restive tribal pockets. The minister, hailing from the family of tribal chiefs, slammed Orissa chief minister Navin Patnaik for pushing projects at the cost of the rights of tribals and forest dwellers. "That is the reason for unrest among tribals," he warned.
"It is not the fault of tribals if the rarest minerals are found under their houses. Would Navin Patnaik give his house for mining if there were minerals under it, or for that matter would Lutyen's Delhi be dug up. You cannot take up land for mining just because it involves poor tribals whose land rights have not been recognized," he said.
Marking his priorities as minister, Deo said he would take stock of implementation of the Forest Rights Act, saying it had to be implemented before any development project can be considered by displacing locals. "Only then a proposal can be considered and proper rehabilitation of locals has to be ensured," he said.
These words are unlikely to provide succour to the Orissa chief minister who is battling the Centre and Congress resistance to mega projects he has tried to commission. While the Centre turned down the Niyamgiri mining, Posco is facing hurdles from villagers opposing land acquisition. Congress has thrown its weight behind them -- from Union minister Jairam Ramesh to AICC incharge Jagdish Tytler, the party has warned the state against use of force.
The suave Deo is known for his opposition to mining in tribal areas. While Centre and state were about to give licences for bauxite mining in Araku, the MP lobbied against it. "Mining in Araku would have killed the source of four rivers and affected water supply to Vishakhapatnam and Vizianagaram and other satellite towns, while bringing misery to locals," he said.
Fresh protests at POSCO project site
India Blooms News Service
16 July 2011
Paradip (Orissa) - Fresh protests halted work at the site chosen by the Orissa government for steel giant POSCO in the coastal village of Govindpur on Saturday as locals chased away policemen leading to a brief scuffle among them.
While the agitators claimed that five women were injured in the clashes, the district administration denied the charges.
"No police excess was committed as claimed by some people. Police were discussing with people when the villagers used vulgar language and chased them with batons and brooms," Additional District Magistrate Sarojkanta Choudhury told reporters.
"Officials along with police force reached the forest area at Mathasahi for felling of trees. They tried to convince the people but the people resisted the police from proceeding," said Inspector of Kujanga police station Gupteswar Bhoi.
"We did not use force. No one was injured," he said.
On May 2, South Korean steel giant POSCO finally managed to get the final go-ahead signal from Ramesh to set up its steel mill and captive port in Orissa.
The conditional clearance includes a set of 28 new terms for the main plant, including riders such as no construction in high erosion zones and no industrial activity in coastal regulation zone.
The minor port project has been imposed with 32 new conditions.
The company has been asked also to promote nesting of the Olive Ridley turtles and protect mangrove.
The ministry also sought assurance from the Orissa government for the compliance of the Forest Rights Act.
The 12- billion-dollar steel plant if built will have a capacity of four million tonnes and is touted to be the largest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in India so far.
Joint Statement Condemning Attack on Peaceful Protesters of Nuagoan
Anti-POSCO Struggle Area Odisha
16 July 2011
Today eight platoons of police attacked and lathi charged peaceful protesters in the village of Nuagaon, Jagatsinghpur District, Odisha. The protesters, despite being mainly women, were attacked by an entirely male police force, resulting in injuries to several and serious injuries to one woman, who has now been hospitalised. The protesters were seeking to protect their forests and trees from being cleared by the police as part of the government's land grab for the POSCO project. After the lathi charge the entire village joined the protest, eventually driving the police back and forcing them to retreat.
We strongly condemn this brutal attack on a peaceful protest by people seeking to protect their legal and democratic rights. This attack disproves the Odisha government's brazenly false claims that "no force is being used" to take land for POSCO. Nuagaon, one must remember, is also one of the villages where the government claimed that "land takeover is proceeding peacefully" - a result not of consent by the people but of the overwhelming threat of force from the government. Today, when people have actually shown their will, the government has shown its true intent.
One must remember that the people of Nuagaon, like all those affected by the POSCO project, have legal rights to their forest and also enjoy the legal power to protect these forests when they wish. This was upheld by three different committees of the Environment Ministry, which went on to, in an act of brazen illegality, clear the takeover of land anyway. Both the Odisha government and the Centre are engaged in a gross violation of law, a resource grab of land and forests that belong to the people for a private multinational company. This attack further comes at a time when the Odisha High Court is hearing, on a daily basis, the petition filed by the villagers against this illegal land grab.
- An immediate halt to all police operations in the proposed project area and the withdrawal of the police from the area;
- The cancellation of the illegal forest and environmental clearances granted to the POSCO project;
- The implementation of the Forest Rights Act and all other pro people laws in the area;
- Prosecution and punishment of the officials and police responsible for the atrocities and violations of law in the area;
- A cancellation of the POSCO project and an end to the six year long attack on the people of the area for the purposes of this project.
1. PUCL 2. Socialist front 3. Mazdoor Kranti Parishad 4. INSAF 5. Green Peace 6. Justice Rajinder Sachar (Retired of Chief Justice, High Court of Delhi, Delhi) 7. Janak Lal Thakur (President Chhattishgarh, Mukti Morcha) 8. B.D. Sharma (Bharat Jan Andolan) 9. Ramesh Agarwal (Raigarh Shangharsh Morcha, Chhattishgarh) 10. Dr. Bharat Patankar (Sharamik Mukti Dal Maharashtra) 11. Kavita Krishnan (C.C Member CPIML Liberation) 12. Ashish Kothari (Kalpabriksh, Delhi) 13. Prof. Arun Kumar (Prof. Jawaharlal University, New Delhi) 14. Dr. Sunilam (Kisan Sangharsh Samity M.P) 15. Anivar Aravind (Moving Republic Bangalore) 16. Arun Bidani (Delhi Platform, Delhi) 17. Anuradha Mittal (OAK Land Institute, California USA) 18. Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty (Delhi) 19. Kiran Shaheen (Senior Journalist Delhi) 20. Rajendra K Sail (Human Rights Activist, Chhatisgarh) 21. V.T. Padmanabhan (Eminent anti nuclear Activist) 22. Shukla Sen (Ekta Mumbai) 23. Dr. Abhay Shukla (Jan Swasthya Abhiyan Pune) 24. Dr. Anant Phadke (Shramik Mukti Dal, Pune) 25. Seema Kulkarni (Samuhik Khoj, Pune) 26. Ishwar Singh Dost (Lecturer, Goa University, Goa) 27. Naveen chander (New Socialist Initiative, Delhi) 28. Shripad Dharmadhikary (Manthan, Badwani, M.P) 29. Manisha Gupta (Pune) 30. Rajveer Pawar (General Secreatary Kisan Maha Punchayat, Delhi) 31. T. Vihayendra (Cerena Foundation, Hyderabad) 32. Dr. Arvind (Prof. Physics, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Chandigarh) 33. Ashley Telis (Social Activist Delhi) 34. Nayan Jyoti (Social Activist Delhi) 35. Rukmini Rao (social Activist, Secunderabad, A.P) 36. Pradeep Esteves (Context India, Bangalore) 37. Sudha Reddy (Social Activist Bangalore) 38. Harsh Kapoor (South Asia Citizens Web) 39. Jyoti Punwani (Semior Journalist Munbai) 40. Prof. B.R. Bapuji (Prof. University of Hyderabad) 41. Vivek Sundara (Mumbai) 42. Sadanand Patwardhan (Indian First, Mumbai) 43. Dunu Roy (Hazards Centre, Delhi) 44. Ranjana Padhi (Women Against Sexual Violence and state Repression, Pune) 45. S. R. Hiremath (National Committee for Protection of Natural Resources, Dharwad, Karnataka) 46. Rohini Hensman (Social Activist, Mumbai) 47. Sayontoni (Independent Researcher Delhi) 48. Asha Kachru (Andhra Pradesh) 49. Vasundhara Jairath (Research Scholar Delhi University) 50. Preeti Sampat (Social Activist Delhi) 51. Benny Kurvila (Focus on Global South Delhi) 52. Sanat Mohanty (Editor, The South Asian Org) 53. Shankar Gopal Krishnan (Champaign For Survival and dignity Delhi) 54. Pushpa Achanta (Freelance Writer, Bangalore) 55. Prakash Kumar Ray (Research Scholar, Cinema Studies J.N.U) 56. Amit Chakrovarty (Research Scholar, Economics JNU) 57. Subhasini Shryia (Student, Centre for Political Studies JNU) 58. Seela Mahapatra (Social Activist, Delhi) 59. Asit Das (POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity Delhi) 60. Nayan Jyoti (Social Activist Delhi) 61. Mamta Dash (POSCO Pratirodh Soclidarity Delhi) 62. Subrat Kumar Sahoo (POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity, Delhi) 63. Rajnikant Mudgal (Harit Swaraj Abhiyan Delhi) 64. Bhuwan Pathak (Himalaya Swaraj Abhiyan Uttarakhand) 65. Amartya (Law Faculty Delhi University) 66. P.K. Sundaram (Research Scholar JNU) 67. Ritu Priya (CSMCH, JNU) 68. Vijay Pratap (Lok Sangharsh Morcha, Socialist Front) 69. Sadre Alam (Social Activist Delhi) 70. D.V. Natrajan (Chennai) 71. Shiraz Prabhu (Kashtakari Sangathana Thane, Maharashtra) 72. Manshi Asher (Independent Researcher and Activist, Himachal Pradesh) 73. Kamayani Maha Bal (Lawer Activist, Mumbai) 74. Dr. John Dayal (All India Cotholic Union, Delhi) 75. Dr. Mira Shiva (Initiative for Health and Equity in Society, Delhi) 76. Ranganathan Manohar (SICHREM, Bangalore) 77. Gautam Bandopadhyaya (Nadi Ghati Morch, Chhatisgarh) 78. Vinod Raina (B.G.V.S., Delhi) 79. Jai Sen (CACIM, Delhi) 80. Satinath Sarangi (Bhopal Group of Information and Action Bhopal) 81. Rachna Dhingra (Bhopal Group of Information and Action Bhopal) 82. Rashida Bee (Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmachari Sangh Bhopal) 83. Nawal Khan (Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmachari Sangh Morcha Bhopal) 84. Safreen Khan (Children Against Dow Chemicals, Bhopal) 85. Gopal Krishna (Research Scholar JNU, Delhi) 86. Abha Mishra (SADED) 87. Sudha Bharadwaj (General Sect. PUCL, Chhattishgarh) 88. P.V. Rajgopal (Ekta Parishad) 89. Heera Singh MArkaan (Gondwana gana Tantra Party) 90. Com Sayra Yadav (CPIML, Chhattishgarh) 91. Harshlata Kanwar (Chhatisgarh Mahila Jagriti Sangathan) 92. Harprasad Agarwal (Chhattishgarh Sarvoday Sangh) 93. Rashmi Dwivedi (Baiga Mahapanchayat, Chhattisgarh) 94. Vijendra (Joinst Secreatary PUCL Chhattisgarh) 95. Gyanesh Dubey (Jagriti Nagaridk Monch, Chhattishgarh) 96. Gauri Chatri (Chhattishgarh Bal Sharamik Sangh) 97. Harshlata Kanwar (Chhatishgarh Mahila Jagriti Sangathan) 98. Agnu Ram (Ekta Parishad Bastar) 99. Shashi Sail (National Alliance of Women) 100. Goldy George (Dalit Mukti Morcha Chhattishgarh) 101. Kumud Nandgave (INSAF, Chhattishgarh) 102. Com C.R. Baxi (Adivasi Mahasabha, Chhatisgarh) 103. Com CL Patel (Chhatisgarh Bachao Andolan) 104. Ranjana Belekar (Domestic Workers Union Chhattishgarh)
Worshipping a steel rath in Orissa
13 July 2011
Trying to criminalise protesters seems a standard operating procedure in dealing with anti-displacement struggles in Orissa and beyond.
They captured national attention during their nerve-wracking stand-off with the police barely a fortnight ago over the Orissa State's forcible acquisition of their land for POSCO. Today, Dhinkia and Govindpur villages seem, on the surface at least, quite relaxed.
"That," says Abhay Sahoo, smiling, "is partly because the 24 platoons of police which came here to throw us out have been busy with the Jagannath rath yatra in Puri (where they beat up the priests). They were needed there for some days." Sahoo is the main leader of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) that is fighting the land acquisition. Another reason for the lull, he says, is that "after they messed up in June, the Orissa government might worry about a new embarrassment. That too with a Parliament session just days away." Hence the pause in the conflict. Anti-POSCO villagers won the last round, both on the ground and in the media. But, as they see it, the police serve Lord Jagannath's wooden rath for only two weeks. "Their commitment to Posco's steel rath is round the year. They'll be back."
The returning police will meet a stubborn people. Quite determined to resist the State government's takeover of their farmland for the South Korean giant's proposed integrated power and steel plant and captive port. The project would also allow for the mining of 600 million tons of iron ore.
People here are among Orissa's better off agrarian communities. The betel vine (pan leaf) economy is central to their well-being. There are 1,800 vineyards in the project zone in official count. Betel farmers here put the number at 2,500. About a thousand of them in Dhinkia and Govindpur. The daily wage rate is Rs.200 or more plus a good meal. That's the highest in the State's agrarian sector, higher than what construction workers in Bhubaneswar get and close to twice Orissa's Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) rate. It can go up to Rs.450 plus a meal for specific tasks in the vineyards.
A tiny vineyard on a tenth of an acre can produce 540 labour days or more in a year. That's apart from 600 days of family labour. Some landless workers earn even more by being fishermen as well. That source of income collapses if POSCO's captive port comes up at Jatadhari. So locals mock the claim of projects bringing jobs, pointing to labour shortages and no major demand for employment. In all classes, even amongst traders, most are unwilling to lose their livelihoods for a project they find destructive and a compensation they see as meaningless.
Cases and warrants
Below the calm surface is a larger tension flowing from the State's way of dealing with the anti-POSCO struggle. With multiple cases filed against large numbers of people - and countless warrants issued - several have been unable to go out of these villages for five years. "Many can't attend close family weddings in other villages. They can't visit very ill siblings or parents," protestors at the "human wall" guarding Dhinkia and Govindpur against police told us. This has fostered a state of siege feeling.
Abhay Sahoo has 49 cases filed against him and spent 10 months in Choudwar Jail while fighting them. "In all," he says, "over a thousand people here have had 177 cases filed against them for resisting POSCO." Trying to criminalise protesters seems a standard operating procedure in dealing with anti-displacement struggles in Orissa and beyond. Barely a hundred kilometres away in Kalinganagar is Rabi Jarika, leader of the tribal resistance to acquisition of land for a Tata steel plant. "I couldn't leave my village of Chandia in years. The police had slapped 72 cases on me under every section you can name."
Jagatsinghpur district's Superintendent of Police S. Devdutt Singh attacks the PPSS' count as "utterly false. There may be," he told us on the phone from Delhi, "200-300 troublemakers against whom there are cases. Cases have also been filed by those harassed by the PPSS, including 52 families they drove out forcibly. And if there are innocent people fearing arrest if they step out, they may have been misled by the PPSS."
Back in Dhinkia, Sahoo seems to be right about the present calm. While pouring rain was the reason advanced for a lull in the land battle, political embarrassment seems a more potent one. The latest is the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights' asking the State "to withdraw police forces sheltered in schools meant for the education of children" in the project area.
Critics point out that the government is forcibly acquiring land for a project whose memorandum of understanding (MoU) expired a year ago. The 2005 MoU between the State and the corporation gave POSCO the mineral at way below market prices. Top government sources say "the renewal is likely in 15 days." But the lack of an MoU has not stopped the State from moving to acquire 4,004 acres of land for the project. Roughly half of that is in Dhinkia and Govindpur.
Priyabrata Patnaik, CMD of the Orissa Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation and the officer-in-charge of all land acquisition, declares: "It is not mandatory for us to have an MoU to acquire land. We have acquired and allotted over 9,000 acres for industries which have no MoU with the State."
The Orissa government Chief Secretary Bijay Kumar Patnaik told TheHindu, "We are acquiring only government land. Most of it here is forest and we will not take private land (which is a small portion of the total)." The vineyards," he insists, "are fairly recent." Villagers, however, point out that survey records show betel farms existing in 1927. "And we have been here even longer," says Gujjari Mohanty at her vineyard. She is past 70 and has been "engaged in this work from an early age."
Devdutt Singh asserts: "Of seven villages in the project zone, things have moved smoothly in all except Govindpur and Dhinkia, where there is resistance. Even in Govindpur, I believe the majority are not with PPSS, only in Dhinkia they might be. Right now, we are clearing the work in the first five. Then we will go on to the others. There is no war here. We will do our job. But I cannot discuss how many platoons we have there or our plans."
He is right that there is no war here - in that one set of combatants is totally unarmed. But when the police do move in on Dhinkia and Govindpur, POSCO's steel rath might run into that human wall.
Posco faces hurdles in Karnataka too
5 July 2011
Chennai/ Dharwad - The farmers in Halligudi of Mundargi taluk in Gadag district are firm on their stand to not part with their land to make way for the Posco steel plant.
They have taken serious exception to industries minister Murugesh Nirani's claim that farmers had volunteered to hand over land to KIADB in lieu of the compensation amount and employment.
President of Mundaragi Taluk Abhivruddhi Horata Vedike Y R Goudar said no farmer in the region had ever agreed to the land acquisition in exchange for job and compensation as claimed by Nirani.
"Nobody from the government has contacted farmers to discuss the issue as on the date. Whatever Murugesh Nirani said is a blatant lie. We oppose land acquisition and we are firm on our stand. Any effort to acquire the lands using force will be opposed tooth and nail," he said.
Goudar said, the lands proposed for acquisition were among the most fertile in the region. The 6,000-plus acres is the only stretch where three crops - jowar, cotton and wheat are cultivated simultaneously.
These lands fall under the catchment area of the Singatalur Lift Irrigation Project that is nearing completion. Land acquisition for industrial purpose would defeat the very objective of this irrigation project. Moreover, the land acquisition would displace over 250 farmers' families.
The proposed steel and gas power plant in Mevundi would be hazardous to the environment. The people in this region solely depend on the tanks for drinking water purpose and these water bodies would be polluted if industrial units are set up here.
Moreover, these units would come up in the distance of barely 13 kms from Kappatagudda, that has been declared the hub of medicinal plants and the rich vegetation here would be harmed, he said.
Solidarity letter to anti-POSCO movement from Korean jail: Sung-Hee Choi
By Nivedita Menon
16 June 2011
Madhumita Dutta has sent us this powerful letter in solidarity with the people of Jagatsinghpur opposing the POSCO project, written by a South Korean activist SUNG-HEE CHOI, in prison for opposing a naval base.
Dear residents in Jagatsinghpur,
I am a woman and activist living in South Korea, the country of the POSCO you oppose. I am currently being jailed in the Jeju prison, under the charge of ‘interruption of business', because of my resistance against the enforcement of the naval base construction in the Jeju Island located in the south of South Korea. As of today, July 3, I met 46th day since my arrest and 44th day since my being restrained.
I accidently happened to see two of your struggle photos and a photo in the Korean Times, June 13, 2011 had a caption underneath it:
‘Anti POSCO action in India: A village sprays water to relieve children lying with other villages along the entry point to prevent policemen and officials from entering their area at Jagatsinghpur district, about 140 kilometers(87 miles) east of eastern Bhubareshwary India, Saturday. The villagers have been protesting against turning their farmland into an industrial developed area for a $12 billion steal plant of South Korean conglomerate POSCO (AP-Yonhap).'
The situation of the Gangjeong village, Jeju Island, when I, along with many others, wanted to prevent naval base, is very much like yours. The Gangjeong villages who have fought for four years to save their village are keeping vigil day and night against sudden crackdown by the navy and construction companies (Samsung and Daerim etc.). It is for not being robbed of their lands. If trucks come, they block them with their bodies and if ships come, they resist them by swimming to them.
Recently, a movie critic named, Yang Yoon-Mo had total 76 days' fast including 60 days' prison fast, against naval base. The Gangjeong village itself is an ecology-excellent village while the Gangjeong Sea is when the UNESCO-protected soft corals inhibit. The naval base construction site in the Gangjeong village is the very habitat for the endangered species such as red feet crabs and small round frogs. But the navy has expropriated more than 51% of the villages' land and threatened them so that they could not but get the deposited money as indemnity.
Because the Jeju naval base would make the Jeju, ‘the Peace Island' into ‘the War Island', and would destroy peace in the northeast Asia, further in the whole Asia & world, not only the Gangjeong villages but many people are opposing it.
I could but feel great sadness and anger over the fact that a big South Korean conglomerate is to rob of and to destroy your lands. The POSCO is one of the big, infamous corporations, along with Samsung, which has oppressed its workers, with its no-labor union policy.
Since the POSCO would destroy not only the environment of your hometown but also your rights to live, your struggle is so just ‘legitimate self-defense'. It is like my action should be called not as ‘interruption of business', but as ‘legitimate self-defense'.
Expression my anger to the POSCO and my apology to you, I also send my warm, comradeship, respect, consolence and encouragement. Your courage and urgency more me.
Wholeheartedly supporting your struggle to save your hometown and your rights to live from reckless developmentalism and imperialism hands. I pray for the success of your struggle.