Anti-Posco leader launches fast in Odisha

Bhubaneswar, Feb 5 (IANS) An anti-displacement leader Tuesday launched an indefinite hunger strike in Odisha's Jagatsinghpur district to protest the take-over of land by the authoroties for Posco's $12 billion steel plant.

Abhaya Sahu, president of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), an organisation which has been spearheading the movement against the project, launched the hunger strike a few kn from Gobindpur area where the land is being acquired. It is 100 km from here.

"He has announced that he will not break the fast until police forces are withdrawn from the area," PPSS spokesperson Prashant Paikray told IANS.

Besides, Sahu has appealed to all likeminded organisations and people to "extend their support to the protesting villagers", he added.

Despite Sahu's fast and protests by hundreds of local people, including women and children and school students, the local administration continued the take-over of land for the project for the third consecutive day under heavy police cover.

"The land acquisition work concluded peacefully for the day. It will be intensified further from tomorrow (Wednesday)," District Collector S.K. Mallick said.

At least 17 betel vines were dismantled and a total compensation of over Rs.30 lakh was paid to the villagers during the day, he said.

Posco's proposed 12 million tonnes per annum steel plant, the largest foreign investment in India, is to come up on about 4,000 acres of land near the port town of Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district, about 120 km from here.

The local administration claimed it earlier acquired about 2,000 acres of land in the region in 2011. It needs to acquire 700 acres more - mostly in Gobindpur area - for the start of the project. However, some villagers and the PPSS have been opposing the acquisition.

The local administration which started the land acquisition in the area Sunday, despite local opposition, said in the last three days it paid a total compensation of about Rs.one crore to the people and demolished 47 betel vines.

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