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Posco: Govt warned against use of force

Published by MAC on 2007-04-10

Posco: Govt warned against use of force

Statesman News Service


10th April 2007

The massive mobilisation of police force in Kujang area of Jagatsinghpur district prompted Opposition political parties and social outfits to warn the government against any use of force in the proposed Posco project area.

Those who have opposed the project refused to budge from their stand and did not lift the check gates which have successfully prevented entry of government as well as company officials to the project site for over one and half years. The inordinate delay, innumerable police cases and clashes between pro and anti-Posco groups, coupled with the fact that the panchayat elections are to be held in some of these areas has prompted the state government to deploy armed police to clear the approach roads.

There is considerable tension in the area as the police operation of moving into the villages had reportedly been chalked out during DGP Mr Amarananda Patnaik's recent visit to the spot. Sensing trouble the anti-project groups have also renewed their pledge to prevent entry of police and project authorities while a pro-project faction has also geared itself up for a showdown with their rival group.

We hope the government has learned lessons from the Kalinga Nagar incident and also from the Nandigram carnage in neighbouring West Bengal, said Opposition leaders even as the ruling BJD circles underplayed the forced mobilisation. Chief minister Mr Naveen Patnaik described it as just normal procedure to ensure law and order in the area.

But Opposition leader Mr JB Patnaik cautioned of a replay of Kalinga Nagar if police was used to crush democratic rights of people. Talking to reporters the Opposition leaders said 20 platoon has been moved to the area and people suspect intimidation and force will be used to acquire land for the project which has been resisted for two years now.

The area is agriculturally rich and is similar to the Baliapal region where a strong peoples movement and forced shifting of the proposed National Test Range in the eighties recalled Mr JB Patnaik. The Congress was in power both at the Centre and the state, it wanted the NTR to be established in the interest of the nation but we bowed to peoples pressure and farmers of the area, he observed.

When his attention was drawn to the fact that the UPA government was keen on the Posco plant coming up in Orissa, the veteran Congress leader remarked: "It matters little even if the entire world were to support the project, what is important is that the locals and farmers are opposed to it and their democratic rights should be respected".

Replying to a question on the fact that panchayat elections need to be held and the police was being deployed to facilitate this, Mr JB Patnaik shot back saying why doesn't the government announce like it did in West Bengal that the project will not come up at that site.

Elections can be held the very moment they make such an announcement, he remarked.

He also raised issues relating to the iron ore, water and product-line of the proposed Posco project. Mr Prafulla Samantray of Lok Shakti Abijan which has been associated with several resistance movements in the state also warned the government against use of force.

Reports from Jagatsinghpur said the police was likely to move-in to the villages and dismantle the check gates within a day or two.

The agitating villagers had disobeyed directives of the administration and not one of the ten check gates have been raised so far.

SP Mr YK Jethwa claimed that the administration was negotiating with local people to ensure smooth and voluntary removal of the check gates. At the same time the police is prepared to take stern action against criminals and anti-socials who create unrest in the area, he added.

The force mobilisation is on and reinforcements have been sent from different districts. Mr Jethwa said 12 platoon police forces have already reached Kujang and additional women police were on their way from other districts. Meanwhile villagers continue to be tense and quiet a few families have left fearing police action. The most sensitive areas are under Dhinkia, Gdakujang and Naugaon panchayats.

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