Gram sabhas of the area have not given their consent to the POSCO project till date
Trouble erupted in Nuagaon Gram Panchayat and its nearby areas, where POSCO is setting up its steel plant, on Sunday as agitated people, who have lost land to the project, forcefully dismantled the 300-metre-long boundary wall of the company and torched its containerised office. They also attacked some of the workers of the company who were building the wall.
“Around 1,200 villagers with an ulterior motive have damaged a portion of the wall and set fire to the office of POSCO in Nuagaon. We have filed an FIR in Abhayachandpur police station on Sunday against the miscreants,” said Ansuman Patnaik, a senior official of POSCO.
“The officials of POSCO had not sought any police help. Following the FIR, we have filed cases under sections 436, 147, 148, 149, 506 and 294 of IPC against some people and are investigating the case,” said Satyabrata Bhoi, Superintendent of Police of Jagatsinghpur.
Nirvaya Samantray, secretary of United Action Committee (UAC), a pro-industry outfit in Gadakujang that opposes POSCO's steel project, said "it is illegal on the part of the authorities to build the boundary wall without fulfilling our six-point charter of demands". "Our demand includes measurement of betel vines from stay to stay instead of 'fence to fence', raising the compensation for betel vine workers from 20 to 30 per cent of the amount being paid to the vine owners, provision of job to each of the 3,000 project-affected families of Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadkujang panchayats, increasing the price of agricultural and homestead land, giving contract work to local contractors during construction and paying compensation to the beneficiaries whose betel vines were uprooted after the 2008 survey," Samantray added. He alleged that the company building the boundary wall is owned by a senior BJD leader and is trying to build boundary wall in a clear nexus with officials and the police.
Following a five-month-long stand-off, POSCO had started building the boundary wall on December 14 and had built a two-kilometre-long wall within two months.
To date, the gram sabhas of the area have not given their consent to the POSCO project. In fact, the gram sabhas of Nuagaon, Gobindpur and Dhinkia have opposed diversion of land for the project. As per the Forest Rights Act and Forest Conservation Act, it is necessary to get approval from the gram sabhas for any project, added Mohapatra.
"Two years ago, the district administration had acquired about 2,000 acres (one acre equals 0.4 hectare) in these areas. But the authority is yet to pay compensation money to all the betel vine farmers and workers. The state government is trying to hoodwink us by not fulfilling our demands for which we are determined to halt the boundary construction work,” said Bijaya Swain, a betel vine farmer of Nuagaon.
"All the villagers are now united to oppose POSCO," said Naresh Chandra Jena of Nuagaon.
“The authority will soon organise Rehabilitation Periphery Development Advisory Committee (RPDC) meeting in Jagatsinghpur to sort out land acquisition, compensation, rehabilitation and other issues for POSCO's proposed steel plant. The authority has already acquired 2,700 acres in Nuagaon, Dhinkia and Gadakujang gram panchayats," said S K Mallick, the district collector of Jagatsinghpur.
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