Protest against POSCO steel plant project in Odisha gains momentum

Bhubaneswar/ Jagatsinghpur/New Delhi, Feb. 4 (ANI): Irate protesters from the Left Front agitated against the Odisha Government on Monday against its drive to remove local tribals from the site of the proposed POSCO steel plant project.

Odisha Police forcibly evicted the tribals demonstrating against the proposed steel plant near Jagatsinghpur on Sunday.

In response, supporters of the left parties organised a protest rally in Bhubaneswar city today.

"Yesterday, the administration used the batons to beat women, children and even the land acquisition officer used batons to beat the people, that is why it is a violation of all the laws, it is inhuman and also violation of human rights," said Praful Sawant, a social activist.

"We have organised this protest against the pressure from the state government, to remove any trace of POSCO and to nullify any MoU signed between the two. We are determined to end this arrangement," said Shivaram, one of the protestors.

But as the government pushes for highways, power plants, steel mills and ports, it has come across stiff resistance from poor farmers who are worried about their future after their lands are taken over for these projects.

"Illegally, brutally they are acquiring land, it's not fair. We have opposed this project from the beginning, we have been demanding to shift the project but the government is not listening. It is very sad," said Congress leader Niranjan Patnaik.

The administration, however maintained that the government was only acquiring lands of those who had signed the consent form and were giving them appropriate compensation.

"They are willing to leave their land, take compensation and to allow POSCO project to come. When the administration is acquiring the land there, they are not forcefully acquiring the land. After taking consent of the land owners or encroachers, they are taking compensation voluntarily and they are giving their land," said Odisha Health Minister Damodar Raut.

Environmental groups have complained that POSCO's plant would destroy large areas of forest in the poor state and would take toll on the indigenous tribes in the area.

Meanwhile, Biju Janata Dal (BJP) leader Jay Panda came out in defence of the Odisha Government on the issue.

"The Odisha Government has been extremely patient; the project is now seven years, so no force has been employed. It has taken this long to convince people in a very open manner and only those people who are convinced and who have agreed and who have signed, only their land is being acquired. Nobody has the right to stop that," he told the media in New Delhi. (ANI)

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