MAC: Mines and Communities

India: Is POSCO's road to destruction about to be built?

Published by MAC on 2011-11-08
Source: Statements (2011-11-01)

The "Indian summer" which saw a lull in attempts by Orissa's government to advance the notorious POSCO project, may be just about to end.

There are now fears that company "security", backed by police, will at any time attempt to construct a company road, to facilitate  possession of community lands.

Local human rights  organisation, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, has issued an urgent appeal for protests to be directed at India's central administration (see below).

The Asian Human Rights Commission has also asked the government to halt this planned  move, "until informed consent from the people directly affected by such activities [is] obtained".

For previous article on MAC: Posco: Indian Green ministry ignored own objections

Urgent Appeal From POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti

POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti statement

1 November 2011

We earnestly appeal to all of you to send your immediate protest letter to the government of Odisha regarding its recent decision to start the construction of coastal road from Paradeep to our village for POSCO.

We fear that over 400-500 henchmen of POSCO,  followed by police forces, might forcibly enter into our area. From media reports, it may construe that they can attack on or before 3rd of November 2011. On 30th October 2011, our villagers have decided to intensify the protest if the Government goes ahead with land acquisition and construction of the coastal road.

On 27th of October 2011, the Chief Secretary of Odisha Mr. B.K Patnaik said in the media that he had asked POSCO authorities to begin work on the acquired land. Of the 4,000 and odd acres of land required by the company, the state government claims to have acquired 2,000 acres and hence POSCO could start work over this land.

In this regard, Mr. Priyabrat Patnaik, Chief Managing Director of Industrial Development Corporation of Odisha (IDCO) held a meeting with the Jagatsinghpur district officials on 28th of October, 2011.

As you all know that the government's move to allow POSCO to start work in the area is completely illegal as the MOU has lapsed more than a year back. Opposition parties including Congress and BJP opposed Orissa government's move to invite POSCO-India to begin work on the acquired land even before a fresh MoU was signed.

At this critical juncture, we appeal to all concerned citizens activists, intellectuals and media friends to extend their support and  put consistent pressure on the government to stop the forcible eviction of the people. Our villagers in a meeting in Dhinkia also have resolved to oppose any move by the state. We know Priyabrata Pattnaik as an officer with criminal credential and can do anything to harm us and help the project. Any intervention from your side will be of help to us.

We shall inform you the further developments here.

In Solidarity,

Prashant Paikaray
Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti

Please Write and Call.....

1. Mr. Shri Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, Prime Minister's Office, Room number 152, South Block, New Delhi
Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857
E.mail manmohan@sansad.in

2. Mr. P. Chidambaram, Union Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, 104-107 North Block, New Delhi 110 001 India
Fax: +91 11 2309 2979 / 23094221
E.mail hm@nic.in

3. Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of India, Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi 110 001
Fax: +91 11 2334 0016, Fax No. 23384863
Email: chairnhrc@nic.in; covdnhrc@nic.in, ionhrc@nic.in

4. Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister, Odisha
Fax 0674-2535100
E. mail cmo@ori.nic.in

5. Mr. S. K. Patnayak, Chief Secretary, Government of Odhisa
Fax: 0674 - 2536660
E.mail csori@ori.nic.in

6. Mr. Narayan Chandra Jena, District Collector, Jagatsinghpur
Contact number +919437038401
Fax No : +916724220299

7. Mr. Debadutta Singh, Superintendent of Police
Mobile No- +919437094678
E.mail dmjsp@ori.nic.in


An Open Letter from the Asian Human Rights Commission to the Chief Minister of Orissa

3 November 2011

AHRC-OLT-015-2011

Chief Minister
Mr. Naveen Patnaik
Through the office of the Principal Secretary
Home Department, Government of Orissa
Naveen Nivas, Aerodrome Road
Bhubaneswar 751001, Orissa
INDIA

Fax: +91 674 25351006
Email: homesec@ori.nic.in

Dear Sir,

INDIA: POSCO project is not more important than public opinion

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing to express its concern to your government, regarding the Orissa State Government's decision to resume construction and land acquisition for the Pohang Steel Company (POSCO) project. We request you to review the decision for the reasons stated hereunder.

The AHRC is monitoring human rights violations, and the legal procedures adopted concerning the POSCO project. We are informed through respectable sources that at present, the villagers affected by the POSCO project are opposed to it, suggesting that the government and POSCO have failed to convince communities of the project's benefits.

Despite reports pointing to a series of human rights violations as well as adverse environmental impact by all government-sponsored committees that have studied the project, the Ministry of Environment and Forests cleared the project in January 2011, subject to 28 conditions.

We are also aware of the state government's unwarranted and illegal use of brute force by the state police against those protesting against the implementation of the project, the latest of which that has been reported to us happened in June 2011.

We are aware that on this occasion also the police attacked the villages while they were peacefully protesting against the project. We are aware that the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), made adverse observations about the manner in which the state police behaved to the villagers, including the occupying of schools, that prompted the Commission to direct your government the immediate withdrawal of police force from the schools.

The AHRC is aware that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the state government and POSCO expired in June 2011 and is yet to be renewed. While the MoU is being examined by the Law Department, your government has announced that it would hand over 2000 acres of cleared land to POSCO when the MoU is renewed. In this backdrop, we wish to recall your attention to the fact that the government going ahead with any project related land work without a renewed MoU would be legally untenable and thus challengeable in a court of law.

Further, the people of the state, in particular those who are directly affected by the implementation of the project, and not just the state's bureaucrats, the state cabinet and the POSCO, has a right to know the terms of the MoU, should it be renewed.

The 2000 acres being handed over in the name of 'public interest' are claimed as government land, acquired by the Industrial Development Corporation of India (IDCO). To this end, 60,000 trees on this land have already been cut, and an estimated ten times more trees will be cut in total.

Deforestation may only benefit the POSCO and indirectly the government from the revenue generated from the project. The environmental impact caused by the massive deforestation is no 'public interest', nor is it 'public responsibility' to bear the long-term consequences of deforestation.

The bureaucratic notion and reasoning that there is public interest for the land to be cleared for the POSCO project has no factual basis. The decision is legally challengeable and would not even stand the basic test of reasonableness and proportionality in a court of law. The AHRC is certain that your government has sought and obtained appropriate legal advice on this matter.

The government has in fact been misusing the term 'public'. Forestland claimed as government land is actually public land, which forest dwellers, farmers and adivasis have been depending on for generations. Just like the air, sea, or river, those who depend on the forest for their survival, have so far shared it. They have their own rules for its use, protection and conservation, set over generations.

The AHRC is certain that your government is aware of the reports made by the Committees who have studied the project. It is disheartening to learn that the government choose to ignore the claims under the Forest (Right) Act 2006 of the forest dwellers upon the land now proposed to be used for the project, on the guise that there were no such claims. This issue has not been properly reviewed so far.

If the government insists that the project is for 'public interest', it should give priority to the real public - people living and depending upon the forest. In that case, the people can decide upon their ‘public interest', and take responsibility for it.

The conversion of public land to government land, for private interest supported by the government, without considering the potential of the brunt it will definitely cause upon the livelihood of the people who depends on the land, and its impact upon the environment appears to be ignored by the government. For instance, the Casuarina tree, known as a cyclone protector in the area, is being cut down.

Regardless of their opinions about the POSCO project, all the villagers are concerned about their protection from natural disasters in the future. This act alone depicts how contrasting is the alleged cause 'public interest' and the mode of implementation of the project.

The AHRC has reported the government's failure to protect villagers from criminals hired by construction company, who attacked the villagers while they were peacefully protesting in September 2011 against the road construction related to the project. To our information, your government has failed to investigate the matter or punish those responsible for committing crimes.

Further, it is shocking to know that the company has already started taking law into their own hands, that too by employing criminals to silence opposition, which no government worthy of its constitutional mandate to the people should have allowed to happen.

The fact that there has been no action against this by the government reiterates the villagers and general suspicion that the government favours POSCO as against the people.

We are concerned that the recent decision to resume construction and forest clearance for the POSCO project will lead to further human rights violence against the villagers.

In light of the above, the AHRC requests your government:

1. The government should respect the right of all villagers affected by the POSCO project to participate in decision-making and obtain their informed consent before going ahead with the project, as well as respecting their right to land and food;
2. The government should respect public opinion concerning the POSCO project, particularly of those directly affected by the project;
3. The government should not allow any project related land work to be undertaken by POSCO or do similar work on behalf of POSCO before the MoU is renewed;
4. Finally, the government should stop the road construction, land acquisition and cutting of trees until informed consent from the people directly affected by such activities are obtained.

Sincerely,

Wong Kai Shing
Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

Copies to:
Minister of Environment and Forests, INDIA
Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission, INDIA
UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate food, SWITZERLAND

--

Asian Human Rights Commission
#701A Westley Square,
48 Hoi Yuen Road, Kwun Tong, Kowloon,
Hongkong S.A.R.
Tel: +(852) 2698-6339
Fax: +(852) 2698-6367
Web: humanrights.asia


Appeal to Condemn the Corporate Violence of POSCO today

POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti statement

26 September 2011

Today, about 400 armed goons of POSCO attacked our villagers at Govindpur village with rod, sticks and hand-bombs at 8.30 AM. In this sudden attack, more than 30 villagers have been injured including 6 women; two people are critically injured. These injured are not able to go for treatment to the nearest hospital in fear of arrest as police has already booked false cases against them in the earlier incidents.

This is a new trick made by the government and POSCO to enter into our area. The government made a plan to build a coastal road along the beach from the Indian Oil Refinery complex to the port near to our village for POSCO. As you know that we have prevented the entry of the police from the side of the land mass by peacefully sitting in Dharana, the government is considering this as an alternative road to make entry from sea side.

The construction has been contracted to Paradeep Paribahan, a private company led by Bapi Circle. On 19th of August 2011, the government has laid the foundation for road construction. On 20th of August, around 400 people including the contractor and workers were proceeding to the site during the day; our people protested the move and chased them away.

After an uneasy summer "lull", another violent attempt has been made to sequester land from villagers who are opposing India's biggest mineral project, that of South Korea's steel giant, POSCO.

See: Peoples' struggles against POSCO broaden in India - and beyond

Today, Bapi Circle who is also known as mafia leader from the ruling party Biju Janata Dal (BJD), brought armed goons from outside the area and led the attack . Our villagers are chased with sticks and bombs are also being thrown on our unarmed villagers. The leader of the Contractors' association has admitted to have attacked the people in front of electronic media. Police did not arrive in the place. Now, our people are in high alert to face any imminent attack by private militia. Our villagers are strongly determined not to allow the construction of the road.

We request all of you to strongly condemned this heinous attack and expose this unholy nexus between POSCO and the state government in a strong word. This is a very planned and calculated move to crush our peaceful democratic movement against the forceful displacement. The malicious plan of the government to project all this situation as a law and order problem in the media and accordingly police will enter in to our area. This is nothing but a very shameful act of POSCO to terrorize the villagers. We all are determined to continue our struggle democratically,

We shall inform you the further developments here.

In solidarity,

Prashant Paikary
Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti

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