POSCO: Lies, Crimes and Atrocities

This statement about today’s events in Jagatsinghpur, Odisha, comes from the CAMPAIGN FOR SURVIVAL AND DIGNITY

Today, more than a thousand armed police besieged the gram panchayat of Dhinkia in Jagatsinghpur District of Orissa to crush the resistance to the POSCO steel plant. For the entire day thousands of people sat in the heat, where several people (including children) and even two policemen fainted. At noon the Collector declared their protest “unlawful” and subsequently loudspeakers blared threats about use of tear gas, lathi charges, “those engaging in unlawful protests being dispersed” continuously for four hours. Efforts were made to divide the protesters as well. The protesters remained firm. Eventually, perhaps afraid of the heavy media presence and unable to break the will of the people, the police withdrew. The people have left some of their number on guard, fearful of the police’s return at any time. 
This is not just a “conflict over land acquisition”, and it certainly is not an “engineered protest” or a “law and order problem created by a few” that the Odisha government keeps trying to claim it is. The point here is very simple – if in fact this project is as beneficial for the people as it is claimed to be, and if the majority actually support it, why could the government never produce a single resolution of consent from any of the gram sabhas of these villages? Why did it never implement the Forest Rights Act in the area, and why did the Environment Ministry engage in such contortions to avoid rights recognition and a vote by gram sabhas? Why, when they were presented with real resolutions with a two thirds majority, did the Minsitry and the Orissa government simply lie in order to get around them?

The answer is clearly that they knew that the people do not support the project. Behind this simple fact lies many other issues that also bear examination. POSCO has been shown to have no economic benefits; it has been established, by MoEF’s own Enquiry Committee, that it has potentially devastating environmental impacts; and the State government has been shown to have lied on record. There has been a comprehensive, systematic, and deliberate collusion between Centre, State and POSCO to defraud the law, violate the rights of the people and cheat the nation in order to benefit a private company.

None of this is unique to POSCO, of course. Across the country, hundreds of projects are being cleared in violation of the Forest Rights Act and the land and forests of lakhs of people are being grabbed. When challenged, the Environment Ministry is now brazen enough to not even deny the crime; it proclaims that it is “learning and evolving” how to follow the law. POSCO and projects like it are demonstrations of how horrifically wrong our process of resource management is, and of the kind of crimes happening across the country today in the name of “development” that benefits only the companies involved.

The people standing guard on the border of Dhinkia gram panchayat, like their counterparts in so many other struggles, are not just defending their lands; they are defending the ideal of a society where human dignity is not regarded as expendable in the face of private profit. In the coming days, we all need to stand with them.

Campaign for Survival and Dignity
9873657844
forestcampaign at gmail.com
www.forestrightsact.com

2 thoughts on “POSCO: Lies, Crimes and Atrocities”

  1. The entrie acquistion is based on farud – there is no standing MOU, the government itself has said that there has been no Gram Sabha yet (the real Gram Sabha was termed as false by the government in its affidavit to Jairam Ramesh) on the Forest Rights Act. Yet Jairam Ramesh choses to give the go ahead “trusting the state government”. Why couldn’t he trust the affidavits that the PPSS had sent him.

    The government talks about the need for economic development. The people of Dhinkia need it but not in this way. Their own livelihoods (Pana Dhana Mina) are strong enough to be built on further. On a recent visit to Dhinkia (with many Dalit Activists) I was amazed at the productivity of the land and the ingenuity of the people who have eked out a decent living out of it. The wage rate for daily laboureres in the area where the police action is going on is at least 200 rupees per day with one meal. This is something thats not even available to daily labourers in Bhubaneswar – forget about the areas which have already been bearing the brunt of so called development. In Sundargarh and Jharsuguda regions the wage rate for agricultural workers is about 50 rupees a day. Its true the work that the labourers in Dhinkia do – on the Betel vines – are not unskilled and not everyone can do that work or get paid that much. But its these skilled people who the government wants to de-skill and make daily labourers available to do whatever the capitalists want today. Its these skilled farmers who the government wants to turn in to daily wage labourers so that land whether under steel plants or food growing plants is always under large corporates.

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  2. MoEF going back on its initial disapproval was indeed shocking. The allegations that the protests are engineered have created confusion. I hope we can stop this disaster, both ecological and social from occuring.

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