Odisha govt. completes land acquisition for POSCO

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ODISHABHUBANESWAR, July 4;The Naveen Patnaik Government completed land acquisition for the proposed steel plant of POSCO in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district on Thursday despite continued protest from the locals for the past eight years.

POSCO-India required 2,700 acres of land to establish an eight million tonne per annum capacity plant and the land was acquired by demolishing as many as 28 betel vines during the day. “The land acquisition process is now complete and we will start construction of the boundary wall and felling of trees on the land once the National Green Tribunal vacated its stay,” Jagatsinghpur District Collector Satya Kumar Mallick told The Hindu.

Of the required 2700 acres, POSCO-India had already been handed over 1703 acres by the Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO). The remaining land will be transferred to the company in due course, Mr. Mallick added.

The State government had acquired about 2000 acres by May last year and it took a little over one year to acquire another 700 acres in several phases. The police resorted to lathi-charge several times when villagers came forward to prevent demolition of their betel vines. This had led to sharp criticism from rights activists from time to time.

POSCO-India had informed Odisha government last year that it required 2700 acres to establish an eight million tonne capacity plant instead of 4004 acres for a setting up of a 12 million tonne capacity plant as it had said while signing the memorandum of understanding (MoU) in June, 2005.

This had made the task somehow easy for the government that decreased the proposed project area by excluding private land belonging to the locals, particularly residents of Dhinkia gram panchayat, nerve centre of the anti-POSCO agitation.

The 2700 acres acquired for the project were forest land and revenue land. Though the entire land belonged to the government it was in possession of the locals who were primarily carrying out betel cultivation to earn their livelihood.

The MoU for the project, which had expired in 2010, has not been renewed so far.

Meanwhile, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, an outfit that had been opposing establishment of the proposed project in the area since 2005, said that their agitation will continue in the days to come. “The villagers will reoccupy the land and reconstruct the betel vines soon. We will continue our opposition to the establishment of the plant in the locality” said Sangram Samiti spokesperson Prashant Paikray.

President of Sangram Samiti, Abhay Sahu, continues to be in jail since his arrest in May this year. He was arrested in a case pertaining to the death of three persons in a bomb blast in the area earmarked for the project earlier.

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