MAC: Mines and Communities

The Price of Steel at POSCO's Indian project

Published by MAC on 2013-07-02
Source: Statement, Times of India, Hindustan Times

India and POSCO Must End Abuses Linked to Steel Project

Rights Groups Urge Suspension of Project, Prevention of Forced Evictions

27 June 2013

New York - The Government of India must end human rights abuses tied to its project with South Korean steel giant POSCO, and must immediately cease illegal seizures of land which threaten to forcibly displace as many as 22,000 people in India's eastern state of Odisha, said rights groups in a new report released today.

The report-The Price of Steel: Human Rights and Forced Evictions in the POSCO-India Project-comes as affected communities gather to protest the eighth anniversary of the signing of the POSCO-India project MoU, and as some of POSCO's international investors meet in Paris at the OECD's Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct.

The Price of Steel-which was produced by the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) at NYU School of Law and the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) based on a year-long investigation-calls for a suspension of the POSCO-India project and a halt to abuses before they become even more catastrophic in scale.

"Should the project move forward, entire villages will be decimated, livelihoods will be destroyed, and families will be rendered homeless, all in the name of ‘development,'" said Miloon Kothari, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing and Executive Director of the Housing and Land Rights Network. "Forced evictions present serious threats to human rights. The impact on those affected can often be characterized as a human tragedy."

Worth approximately US$12 billion, the POSCO-India project represents the largest single foreign direct investment in India to date, and will require more than 12,000 acres of land, including approximately 4,000 acres for an integrated steel plant and captive port in an area that is home to forest-dwelling communities and a vibrant and sustainable local economy centered around betel leaf cultivation. For the past eight years, through sustained and peaceful opposition, affected communities-including betel leaf farmers, fisherfolk, and Dalits-have effectively stalled the project and resisted their forcible evictions from lands they have cultivated for generations.

The Price of Steel finds that India's attempts to forcibly evict these communities stand in violation of international and domestic law. International legal standards require that India exhaust all feasible alternatives to forced evictions; engage in genuine consultation with project-affected communities; ensure the provision of adequate compensation for affected properties; and follow procedures established by law. India has systematically failed to live up to each and every one of these standards.

In addition, under India's Forest Rights Act, the government must secure the consent of forest dwelling communities before diverting forested land. Affected communities have passed several village resolutions fervently rejecting the diversion of land for the POSCO-India project, resolutions that the Indian government has effectively ignored.

"India's attempts to forcibly evict communities for the POSCO project are in clear violation of Indian and international law," said Professor Smita Narula, co-author of the report and Faculty Director of IHRC. "Project-affected communities are living under siege, and suffering severe violations of their fundamental human rights. India must act now to end these abuses and put the rights of its people ahead of the needs of a corporation."

Indian authorities have actively targeted those who speak out against the POSCO-India project with violence and arbitrary arrests and detentions. Local police have barricaded villages, occupied schools, and leveled thousands of allegedly fabricated criminal charges against project protestors. Indian authorities have also refused to project protestors from consistent and sometimes fatal attacks by private actors who are allegedly motivated by the interests of the company and of the State.

As a result of these abuses, for the past eight years, entire communities in the project-affected area have been living under siege and have suffered clear violations of their rights to security of person and freedom of movement; their rights to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention; and their right to be free from discrimination-particularly on the basis of political or other opinions. Living under siege has also resulted in significant disruptions to many villagers' ability to access health care, schools, markets, and crops, undermining their rights to health, education, work, and food.

"Thousands of affected community members have struggled to defend their human rights and protect their lands, livelihoods, and dignity." said Chris Grove, Director of ESCR-Net. "Their demands articulate the reasonable expectations of any just economic development. The pursuit of foreign investment cannot come at the cost of human rights."

There is no public evidence to suggest that POSCO has taken steps to use its leverage to call for a halt to forced evictions, or an end to human rights abuses associated with the acquisition of land for the POSCO-India project. Despite widespread reporting of these abuses, in an April 2013 letter to ESCR-Net, POSCO stated that it believes the "authorities are not using any force to evict any people."
ESCR-Net and IHRC call on all relevant actors to take immediate action to fulfill their respective obligations and responsibilities, and ensure that human rights are not violated in connection with the POSCO-India project.

Specifically, the rights groups call on:

About the Authors

The International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) at New York University (NYU) School of Law provides high quality, professional human rights lawyering services to community-based organizations, nongovernmental human rights organizations, and intergovernmental human rights experts and bodies.

The International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) is a network of over 250 NGOs, social movements, and advocates in 70 countries that collaborate to strengthen capacity, build solidarity, and undertake collective action to advance social justice through human rights.

The views expressed in this release and accompanying report are those of ESCR-Net and IHRC and do not purport to present NYU's institutional views, if any.

Smita Narula, Faculty Director, IHRC (English, Hindi), 917-209-6902; smita.narul[at]
Chris Grove, Director, ESCR-Net, 718-916-7461; cgrove[at]

For India and Korea-based contacts: please email escr-net[at]

Thea Gelbspan
International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
ESCR-Net / Red-DESC / Réseau-DESC
Tel: +1 212.681.1236 x 22
Skype: Thea_ESCR-Net
Fax: +1 212.681.1241

Anti-Posco brigade holds black day

Times of India

23 June 2013

Bhubaneswar/ Kendrapada: While the state government said the MoU with Posco for a steel plant in Jagatsinghpur would be renewed within a month, the anti-Posco brigade on Saturday observed the eighth anniversary of inking of the deal as 'black day'.

Supporters of four Left-wing political parties, CPI (ML), SUCI (C), CPI (ML) Liberation and CPI (ML) Liberation New Democracy, took out a rally in the capital city, demanding scrapping of the project. Posco Pratirodh Jan Sangharsh Manch (PPJSM) and several women organisations also joined the protest. The PPJSM members, who had been sitting on a dharna, opposing the project, at Lower PMG here since May 15, also ended their stir.

The protestors wore black badges and burnt effigies of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Gananath Patra, advisor to Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh, questioned the rationale behind 'favouring' a company by ignoring the CAG report, Green Tribunal order and court recommendations.

In Jagatsinghpur, where the mega steel project is proposed, several anti-Posco organizations led by Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) staged a protest at the plant site with a 'Gobindapur Chalo' slogan. Braving incessant rain and bad weather, around 1,500 villagers marched from Dhinkia to Patana. Many villagers also hoisted black flags atop their houses.

Addressing a meeting, CPI MP from West Bengal Prabobh Panda criticized the government for kowtowing before the multi-national company's 'anti-people' terms to establish a steel plant near Paradip. He urged the villagers to oppose any move of the government to acquire their fertile land for Posco.

Jagatsinghpur collector S K Mallick said there was no law and order problem at the Posco site. "Like every year, they observed black day and held a rally," he said, adding, "The land acquisition process has been temporarily suspended after acquisition of over 2,600 acre for the project."

General secretary of PPSS Sishir Mohapatra demanded the government not to renew the MoU. The state government had signed an MoU with Posco on June 22, 2005, to set up a steel plant in Jagatsinghpur district at an estimated cost of 12 billion US dollars. Its validity expired in 2010.

Official sources said the process to ink a fresh pact with the steel behemoth is nearing completion and could go for the chief minister's approval within a month. The new MoU could be a tripartite agreement involving the state government, Posco and its Indian subsidiary Posco-India, sources said.

The project has in recent weeks got a boost with the state government acquiring almost the requisite land for beginning first phase work, the Supreme Court asking the Centre to decide on giving preferential access to Posco for the Khandadhar iron ore reserves and an expert committee of the ministry of environment and forests recommending revalidation of environment clearance granted in 2007 to the company.

Locked land of Posco

Priya Ranjan Sahu

Hindustan Times

23 June 2013

Gobindpur, Odisha - It's been an eight-year-long uneven battle between betel vines and a steel plant. And steel hasn't won yet.

For, eight villages in coastal Odisha's Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujanga gram panchayats in Jagatsingpur district, about 150 km east of state capital Bhubaneswar, have put up a stiff resistance against South Korean steel major Posco's proposed Rs.52,000-crore project.

The reason: It will take away their traditional source of income - betel vines.

Posco signed a deal with the state government for acquiring 4,004 acres (one acre=43,560 square feet) for the project. But the site of the project - backed by the single-largest foreign investment in India - virtually has nothing except some prefabricated site offices in a hurriedly fenced-off piece of vacant land.

The telltale signs of the battle are strewn everywhere in the area earmarked for the project - felled trees, destroyed betel vines and hostile villagers, who have been fighting with the state to protect their vines.

Popular resistance and environmental clearance have made it difficult for the state to push through the 12-million-tonnes a year green-field project, which should have gone on stream by 2011.

Of the 4,004 acres, about 3,000 acres is forestland. And more than 5,000 betel vines dot the sandy landscape in this forestland, each generating an average assured income of R20,000 a month.

Two years ago, the administration had to suspend land acquisition after hundreds of women and children blocked the entry point to the vines near the Gobindpur-Nuagaon border in scorching summer.

In February this year, the administration took a step forward by resuming the process in Gobindpur. Though the state considers dismantling about 300 betel vines in three months to be some success, the drive seems to have lost steam by the end of May.

"They are coming like thieves in the wee hours and trying to dismantle vines before we wake up and protest. We have re-erected several vines dismantled by them," said villager Tuna Baral.

But the administration is being careful. "Land acquisition continues peacefully. We are trying to convince people to part with their vines and accept compensation," SK Mallick, collector of Jagatsinghpur, told HT.

The project has split the village community, with a group called the United Action Committee (UAC) - having some influence in Nuagaon - supporting Posco. But that has not helped matters. Today, Nuagaon is a picture of despair, with villagers having exhausted their compensation and are left with no means to sustain themselves.

Kabindra Rout, a betel farmer, said, "The administration dismantled my betel vine in 2011 and I got a compensation of R2.28 lakh. But now I am jobless."

Many who earlier used to own betel vines and could employ others have now been reduced to daily wage-earners in the vines in Dhinkia, the stronghold of the anti-Posco movement, which the police have not been able to enter during the past eight years.

On June 7, after meeting chief minister Naveen Patnaik, Posco India chairman and managing director Young-Won Yoon said, "We are hopeful the land will be handed over to us soon."

But ‘soon' may prove to be far off - or even a delusion - as the 20,000-odd residents of the eight villages are showing no signs of retreating from their betel vines.

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