Four persons died and one critically injured when a bomb exploded in the midst of people opposing the proposed mega steel plant of South Korean steel company, POSCO, near Patna village in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha.
The incident happened at around 6.30 pm on Saturday, when some local goons, allegedly hired by POSCO, threw a crude bomb inside the backyard of the house of a resident, Sura Nana, in Dhinkia gram panchayat, the centre of the anti-POSCO movement. Villagers from Gobindpur and other villages affected by the Rs 52,000 crore project had gathered in the house compound to discuss resumption of land acquisition for the project by Odisha government, said Prashant Paikray, spokesperson for POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), the people’s front spearheading the anti-POSCO movement. PPSS says the crude bomb was hurled by hired goons and was aimed at their leader, Abhay Sahoo.
Those who were killed by the bomb explosion have been identified as Manas Jena (32), who died on the spot, Nabanu Mandal (35) and Narahari Sahoo (52), who bled to death while waiting for an ambulance, and Laxman Pramanik (35), who was also critically injured in the incident and died later.
Land acquisition was to resume on March 2
According to government sources, the acquisition would have started from March 2 and six platoons of reserved police battalions were sent to help officials resume land acquisition. POSCO officials were not available for comments despite repeated attempts.
PPSS members said that though Sahoo was not present in the meeting at Nana's house, the attack was aimed at him—he had received several threats—and also at thwarting protests. Odisha police is yet to start investigation. “We do not know how to react to this as we are shocked by this incident, but villagers will keep resisting the company,” added Paikray.
Earlier in February, the government was forced to stop land acquisition at Gobindapur village in the proposed project site due to protests by the villagers. The top rung of the BJD leadership, at that time, decided to go slow as the Budget session of the Odisha Legislative Assembly was to start from February 14. It was then decided that land acquisition would resume from March 2 as the Assembly would be in recess from February 25 to March 7.
The government plans to acquire 2,700 acres of land (1 acre equals 0.4 hectare) for POSCO so that the Korean steel giant can begin the first phase of the plant with an output of 8 million tonnes per annum. Of this land, 1,500 acres were to be acquired from Gobindpur village. Earlier, in the first week of February, the state-owned Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO), the agency entrusted by the government to acquire land for industries, had demolished around 60 betel vines in the project site, which was stiffly resisted by the locals.