MAC: Mines and Communities

India: An Oppressive State violates its own rules for POSCO

Published by MAC on 2013-02-11
Source: Statements, The Hindu (2013-02-07)

In February, for the first time since 2011, there have been new attempts to evict farmers from their land in Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa, India, in order to build the South Korean company POSCO's giant steel project.

Although violence flared up on 3rd February the situation took a turn for the worse about a month ago and the villagers at Dhinkia and Govindpur had created a human shield to keep the police out of their land. At this time, PPSS started an online petition hoping to mobilize public support for the cause. (https://www.change.org/en-IN/petitions/chief-minister-of-odisha-stop-diversion-of-forest-land-use-of-police-force-against-residents)

Various Indian, and international organisations - including Korean NGOs - have registered their disgust at the violence. 

There is a good video background to the situation, where the film-maker and activist Surya Shankar Dash discusses the situation illustrated with video footage which takes us on a journey of state atrocities committed by the Government of Orissa in their attempts at forceful land acquisition. See http://youtu.be/aMr9D5NQwKQ & http://youtu.be/RG7Qs_6l81U

Previous coverage on MAC: India: Against all odds, the POSCO struggle continues

Demolishing democracy: An Oppressive State violates its own rules

All India Forum of Forest Movements (AIFFM) statement

3 February 2013

In the wee hours of 3 February 2013 (at around 4 am), twelve (12) police platoons entered Govindpur and Nuagaon villages in Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa (India) and started beating up sleeping women & children, injuring many of them seriously, and arresting people at random. They are demolishing the betel vines in the area - the traditional and one of the most viable local livelihoods.

The villagers of Govindpur and Nuagaon are protesting against the steel project promoted by the South Korean TNC POSCO in the Jagatsunghpur district of the eastern Indian province of Orissa and resisting for long the forceful and illegal acquisition of their land, the source of their livelihood.

This act of the state to take possession of the land forcefully shows a disregard of constitutional rights of the people, as well as a gross violation of Forest Rights Act 2006: this takes place in spite of standing gramsabha resolutions opposing the land acquisition process and proposed diversion of forest land for Posco project, and the National Green Tribunal suspending/cancelling both forest and environmental clearances issued to the project earlier. The absence of due legal procedures for acquiring forest lands under control of Gram Sabha makes this act on the part of the state doubly illegal, and the state must explain its act of illegality to its people.

All India Forum of Forest Movements (AIFFM) strongly condemn this barbarous attack on people who are resisting forceful acquisition of their lands peacefully and demand:

We reiterate that any acquisition of land and resources in the area can be done only after the implementation of FRA 2006 in letter and spirit and with due consent from gram sabha.

AIFFM Secretariat
Ranchi, Jharkhand, India


Urgent Appeal from Anti POSCO Jagatsinghpur District, Odisha

Video Volunteers urgent action

3 February 2013

For more than seven years, the people of three panchayats in Odisha, India have successfully fought off attempts by the Korean Steel conglomerate POSCO and the government to forcibly acquire their land. 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. 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.

At 4AM on 3rd February 2013 12 platoons of police force have entered villages, Dhinkia and Govindpur. They have beaten up women and children as well as arrested some of the villagers, including Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Debendra Swain. At the moment we do not have exact numbers of how many have been arrested. Gradually women, children, male members have started collecting at the Dharana (protest) site in Balitikira on the border of the two villages. At present, 5,000 villagers have gathered to protest.

Some people sensed possible police movement at around 2 AM and alerted fellow villagers by ringing bells. On entering the villages, the police attacked the women and children first. The male police have ruthlessly beaten women who were part of a human chain. At least three women and an elderly person have been severely injured. They cannot get to the hospital.

The police have started breaking the betel vine plantations of the villages and cutting trees forcefully. This is being done to hit their main source of income.

Police force has been gradually swelling in the area since early January 2013 amidst continued protest by the locals who have formed a human chain and been sitting on strike. Today'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 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:

Naveen Patnaik
Chief Minister, Odisha
Tel. No.(O) 011 91 674 2531100,011 91 674 2535100,
011 91 674 2531500, Epbax 2163
Tel. No.(R) 011 91 674 2590299, 011 91 674 2591099,
011 91 674 2590844, 011 91 674 2591100,
Fax No- (91)6742535100
E Mail: cmo@ori.nic.in

S.K. Mallick
District Collector, Jagatsinghpur,
Contact number- 09437038401
06724-220379
06724-220199
Fax no - : (91)6724220299

Debadutta Singh
Superintendent of Police,
Mobile no-09437094678
dmjsp@ori.nic.in
Shri B K Patnaik,
Chief Secretary,
E-mail: csori@ori.nic
Phone no - 0674 - 2536700
0674 - 2534300
0674 - 2322196
Fax No - 0674 - 2536660


Outrage over govt officer beating Posco protestor

Priya Ranjan Sahu

Hindustan Times

5 February 2013

Bhubaneswar - Sangram Mohapatra, a land officer with state-run Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation of Odisha (IDCO), has kicked up a storm and drawn widespread condemnation for taking law into his hand during Odisha's land acquisition drive for Korean steel maker Posco's $12 billion (Rs 54,000 crore) plant in Gobindpur village of Jagasinghpur district, about 200 kilometres east of Bhubaneswar.

In the video-grabs obtained by HT, Mohapatra was seen mercilessly beating villagers opposing Posco's plant with a long stick on February 3 (Sunday), when the district administration resumed its land acquisition in the wee hours of morning, in full view of district official and police. In his enthusiasm to clear protesters comprising children, women and old people, the officer, dressed in a red sweater over a white shirt, was also seen dragging small children from the demonstration site and moving from one place to another carrying the stick .

Mohapatra has been deputed by IDCO to coordinate with district administration for the land acquisition work.

"By beating peaceful protesters without having police or magistrate power, the IDCO officer has proved himself to be an agent of Posco," said Prasant Paikray, spokesperson, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), which is spearheading the movement against Posco's 12 million tonne per annum green field project.

Odisha Congress president Niranjan Patnaik said: "We condemn the highhandedness shown by the officer. We will keep a close watch on the action taken by the state government against the officer."

State BJP chief Jual Oram said if the government officials took law into their hands to crush peaceful protests, it would be disastrous for the democracy. "Strong action should be taken against officers and police taking law into their hands," Oram said.

Odisha health minister and senior Biju Janata Dal leader Damodar Rout, who represents the district in the assembly, also condemned Mohapatra's action. "This is condemnable," he said.

Jagatsinghpur collector SK Mallick admitted of hearing allegations against Mohapatra. "I have brought it to the knowledge of the government. I have also talked to superintendent of police Satyabrata Bhoi and appropriate action will be taken in this regard," Mallick old the Hindustan Times.

Posco, world's fourth largest steel producer, signed an MoU with the Odisha government in June 2005 to set up its project, touted as India's single larges foreign direct investment. Initially, 4004 acres of land, out of which 3000 forestland, were needed for the project. But recently it was reduced to 2700 acres.

The state government has already acquired about 2000 acres for Posco, but suspended land acquisition in June 2011 in the face of stiff opposition from villagers. More than 20,000 people of eight villages under Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujanga pram panchayats have been opposing the plan under the leadership of PPSS.


Update from POSCO PRATIRODH SANGRAM SAMITI on 5th February 2013

Today i.e. on 5th February 2013, our villagers resisted when 12 platoons of police (around 400 police personnel) made a flag march along with the officials of POSCO-India, state revenue department and Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) to acquire a patch of 700 acres of land of Gobindpur village. During the resistance, some of the school children have been injured. These children while staging a rally demanding the removal of police force from the area came face to face with the police force which was on a flag-march. Due to the heavy presence of police force, tension prevailed in the area. The POSCO-India officials are busy in providing food and other logistical support to the Police and other officials.

The Jagatsinghpur district collector Satya Kumar Mallick repeatedly said in the media that ?the land acquisition process in Gobindpur was going on peacefully with the consent of villagers and we have deployed police force to protect the villagers from the threat of PPSS? This is false
and misleading. Actually 80 per cent of the people were against handing over their land. If the people are giving their land voluntarily, then why the police is entered in wee hours of Sunday which was a holiday and started beating the villagers in which 18 villagers were injured. Four of the injured including three women were seriously hurt. The way the administration acquired the land without the consent of the villagers is undemocratic and uncalled for. We are attaching herewith the video link http://www.indianexpress.com/videos/business/25/protester-police-clash-at-posco-site--/15258.

One Sangram Mohapatra, the land officer with the state-run Orissa Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO), was seen mercilessly beating a protestor with a stick. The footage also showed the officer dressed casually in a red sweater over a white shirt moving from one place to another and dragging some children across the protest site. He has no police or magistrate power.

On 2nd February, the administration crushed millions of betel leaves as the vineyards came crashing down under tractors. The crushing of beetle leaves is continuing with the presence of heavy police force in the Govindpur village.

On 3rd February, The leaders of six political parties-Congress, Samajwadi Party, RJD, CPI, CPM and Forward Block joined with the villagers at Gobindpur and severely criticized the administration for 'forcible' acquisition of land for the Posco project.

You may know that on 30th March 2012, the national Green Tribunal (NGT) suspended the environmental clearance of POSCO. However the district officials are demolishing beetle-vines and tree felling exercise at Mathsahi locality of Gobindapur in the presence of Jagatsinghpur district Collector S K Mallick, Superintendent of Police Satyabrata Bhoi and other officials. This is clearly undemocratic and illegal to make this attempt when the matter is sub-judice.

The chairperson of PPSS, Mr. Abhay Sahu is on an indefinite hunger strike at Patna Hat since this morning with demanding immediate withdrawal of police force from the village. He will not break the fast until police forces are withdrawn from the area.

At this juncture, we earnestly request the concerned citizens, progressive intellectuals, social movements, to join us at Govindpur village and save the villagers from clutches of a cruel, tyrannical, profit-minded pro-corporate state power. If this struggle is crushed so badly we doubt if there will be another struggle anywhere which will be able to drive out such monsters from any part of our country.


An Open Letter to the Chief Minister of Odisha

5 February 2013

To, Shri Naveen Pattnaik Chief Minister of Odisha Odisha

Dear Shri Pattnaik,

We, the undersigned, are deeply anguished over the recent attack on the people of Govindpur and Nuagaon villages of Jagatsinghpur district in Odisha who have been using the most democratic means to resist the forceful acquisition of land for the POSCO project. As you claim that Odisha is on the path of peaceful industrialization, is it a sign of peaceful industrialization to send 12 platoons of police for forceful land acquisition?

Over the past few days, the deployment of police force in the area had created tremendous tension and anxiety in people's minds that the administration will use police force to forcibly entry the villages. Since years now, the village people have been peacefully resisting any acquisition of land and have braved many brutal attacks by the police and goons. All attempts for dialogue with the administration and your government have failed as your government has repeatedly used force and coercion with the support of the Centre in pushing for the project. This aggressive move by your government is a symbol of a demolished democracy where the state itself is violating the law of land. The state is also violating all international conventions as it seeks to invite foreign capital to its land.

We were shocked to hear the manner in which the administration along with 12 police platoons entered the villages around 4am of 3 February (Sunday) 2013 and the police officials indiscriminately hit women and children with lathis (sticks), cut many trees and destroyed several betel vines. More than 50 persons received injuries; of them three women and one old man are severely injured. The police also arbitrarily arrested and detained several men and women who tried to resist the action. They demolished the betel vineyards - one of the most viable local livelihoods.

To be attacked at this hour and caught unaware despite countless organized attempts on part of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti to appeal to you and the Centre, and repeatedly so, shows the deep failure on the part of the state machinery to engage in democratic means with the people whose land it seeks to acquire. You will agree that for the state to take possession of the land forcefully is not in keeping with the constitutional rights of the people, as well as a gross violation of the Forest Rights Act 2006. This is taking place in spite of standing Gram Sabha resolutions opposing the land acquisition process and proposed diversion of forest land for POSCO project, and the National Green Tribunal suspending both forest and environmental clearances issued to the project earlier. The absence of due legal procedures for acquiring forest lands under control of Gram Sabha makes this act on the part of the state doubly illegal.

The actions by the Government of Odisha with the support of the police and POSCO also clearly violate several international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, all of which India has ratified. This recent attack on the people of the area also infringes international standards and guidelines, including the UN Basic principles and guidelines on development based evictions and displacement .

This violent act by your government and administration appears to be a result of the announcement on 28 January 2013 of the Commerce Minister that thegovernment of India will review delays in South Korean steel giant POSCO's Rs. 60,000 crore (USD 12 billion) plant in Odisha, as it is committed to ensuring "smooth take off" of the project, the highest foreign direct investment (FDI) in India. He also affirmed that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is personally monitoring the POSCO project, which is being followed up by the Prime Minister's Office. The announcement was made in a meeting with South Korean Minister of Knowledge Economy in Agra where the CII-organized Global Partnership Summit 2013 was taking place. Also, on 20 January 2013, it was reported that the Board of Approval for SEZs agreed to give POSCO one more year to start work on the proposedproject in Odisha.

We strongly condemn this barbarous attack on people who are resisting the forceful acquisition of their own land so peacefully. And, we stand by the struggling people of your state and prevail upon you to ensure:

Immediate withdrawal of police from the area
Immediate release of people who have been illegally arrested
Provision of adequate medical care to all the injured in the area
Scrapping of all forms of land acquisition
State to show cause for acquiring land in the area

Signed by:

Asit - POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity, Delhi
Mamata Dash - All India Forum of Forest Movements (AIFFM)
Ranjana Padhi - Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)
D Manjit - People's Union for Democratic Rights
Amit - Krantikari Naujawan Sangh, Delhi
Harish, Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra, Delhi
Pratyush Chandra, Radical Notes, Delhi
Pothik Ghosh, Radical Notes, Delhi
Arjun Pal Singh, PDFI, Delhi
Afsar Jafri - Focus on the Global South, Delhi
P K Shahi - AIFTU (New), Delhi
Nitin Kumar - AISA, Delhi
Sandipan - AISA, Delhi
Rakesh Ranjan - NOWRUZ, Delhi
Damodar - Revolutionary Democracy, Delhi
Kundan, DSU, Delhi
Alok Kumar - Krantikari Yuva Sangathan, Delhi
Anjani Kumar, Independent Journalist, Delhi
Ashish Kothari - Kalpavriksh, Delhi
Ashok Agarwal - Advocate, Delhi
Dr Manoranjan Mohanty - Retd Professor and Activist, Delhi
Gunjan Jain - Activist, Delhi
Kalyani Menon Sen - Feminist Learning Partnerships, Delhi
Kiran Shaheen - Journalist, Delhi
Miloon Kothari - Former Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, UN Human Rights Council
Rizwan, Delhi
Sanjeev, Delhi
Saroj Giri, Asst Professor, Delhi
Shivani Chaudhry - Housing and Land Rights Network, Delhi
Subrat Sahu - Film Maker
Surya Shankar - Film Maker, Delhi
Umesh Babu, Delhi


Letter from Korean Civil and Labor organizations

His Excellency Dr. Manmohan Singh Prime Minister of India

7 February 2013

We strongly request the Indian government to halt forcible land acquisition immediately, which is for securing sites for project of POSCO.

Korean civil society has strongly argued that the Indian government should push ahead the project with consideration of human rights of the villagers and environment. Some of committees of the Indian government and National Green Tribunal clarified their position that the proposed project failed to obtain villagers' consent and environment effects should be examined thoroughly.

Despite POSCO Project acquired legitimacy from the Indian government, it is clear that mobilization of police force should not be principal means of resolving deportation cases.

The Indian government must be aware that how much painful the Indian villagers, who are dismissed from their lifelong lands and houses and received unfair compensation, feel. Early in the morning of 3rd February 2013, Indian police attacked peaceful protesters. They attacked women and children, cut the trees and devastated facilities of the village. Furthermore, as from 5th February, police and Indian government employees have conducted forcible land acquisition procedures in the village opposing to the proposed project.

Also, Korean civil society doubt why the police force is involved in POSCO project, which attracts attention of international society, at this time even though the government refrained from putting troops.

As of 28th January 2013, when South Korean Minister of Knowledge Economy visited India, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma referred "We have been concerned about the delays and will be conducting a review. Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) himself has been monitoring this project"

Korean civil society is disappointed in the Indian government if the outcome of ‘review' and ‘monitoring' is resorting to violence and brings the armed forces. Not only opponents of the project in the village, but international civil society including South Korea are skeptical whether POSCO launched the project with villagers' full consent through 'valid' procedures. In addition, we doubt whether the Indian government clings to environment permitting guidance. For this reason, as of October 2012, civil society of India, South Korea, Norway and Netherlands petitioned NCPs of Korea, Netherlands and Norway, regarding POSCO project as an undertaking which has violated OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises. In this situation, enforcement of the project with armed forces would never be beneficial to POSCO as well as the Indian government.

Korean enterprises including POSCO have expanded investment in India. However, Korean civil society does not want disadvantaged people in India to go through human rights abuses and discrimination as investment of Korean companies escalates. The Indian government, as a state fully respecting human rights, has to pay attention to Korean civil society and those who are fearful of expropriation of land, instead of focusing on enterprises such as POSCO.

We therefore urge the Indian government to

- Withdraw the police force as soon as possible and prosecute those who are responsible for the assault.
- Provide treatment to the injured villagers and compensate those who lost their trees and other sources of livelihood.
- Reexamine POSCO project and ensure that villagers' right to partake in decision making.
- Respect villagers' human rights and protect them from brutality.

1. Advocates for Public Interests Law

2. Corporate For All

3. Energy & Climate Policy Institute

4. GongGam, Human Rights Law Foundation

5. Korean Confederation of Trade Unions

6. Korean Federation for Environmental Movement

7. Korean House for International Solidarity

8. Korean Lawyers for Public Interest and Human Rights

9. National Association of Professors for Democratic Society

10. People's Solidarity for Social Progress

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