MAC: Mines and Communities

We will die for our lands: POSCO opponents

Published by MAC on 2007-12-04

We will die for our lands: POSCO opponents

4th December 2007

by India PRWire

The situation at Jagatsinghpur in Orissa, where South Korea's Pohang Iron and Steel Co (Posco) intends to build a steel plant, is heading for the worse, as protestors said here Tuesday they will continue to fight and die for their lands.

'We are committed to fight for our land, lives and livelihoods,' Prafulla Das, a member of Posco Pratirodh Samgram Samiti, said here at a press conference.

'We are ready to die to protect our lands from the hands of greedy capitalists,' he added.

Das accused the Orissa government of advocating Posco's case ahead of the interests of the local people.

A strong resistance has sprung up in the area of the proposed plant since July 2005, a month after the state government signed a memorandum of understanding with South Korea's steel giant to built a three-million tonne steel plant with an investment of $12 billion.

Local people say the plant will ruin their livelihoods based on cultivating betel-vine, paddy, cashew nut, and fishing.

'Our area is famous for betel-vine cultivation. It provides good earnings to locals of all ages. The steel plant can't give us such good earnings,' said Prasant Paikroy, a member of Orissa Bachao Andolan.

Asked whether they would give up their agitation if the government comes up with appropriate compensation and job assurance for all affected people, Paikroy told IANS that the Orissa government had a very poor record of not fulfilling promises to people who were displaced in earlier projects.

'People displaced in earlier projects are still crying for compensation. We don't believe in government assurances. Besides, people in Jagatshingpur earn much more than what the government can give them,' Paikroy maintained.

Both Paikroy and Das blamed the state government for the Nov 29 violence, in which at least 30 people, including several women and children, were injured.

They were all goons hired by the government, who attacked with bombs local people protesting peacefully in a camp at Balitutha village, the protestors said.

The speakers called on the government to end repression on people of three villages, namely, Dhinkia, Gadakujanga and Nuagam.

According to them, the police have been blocking access to these villages, leading to a severe shortage of supplies.

'If the situation doesn't improve soon, nobody knows what the deprived people will do,' Das said. Bloodshed can't be ruled out, he said.

Sumit Chakravarty, editor of Mainstream magazine, who was also a member of a fact-finding mission, justified the resistance against the steel plant by saying it would no way help the local people.

He said the way the government is handling the issue without holding discussions with the people and taking them into confidence, it may soon turn out to be another Nandigram.


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