POSCO officials in Orissa kidnapped

By Ashutosh Mishra
Published: Friday 15 June 2007

orissa's rich mineral resources have turned the state into a veritable battleground. On May 11, 2007, three Pohang Steel Company (posco) officials were kidnapped in Govindpur village in Jagatsighpur district. One of the officials was released immediately and two others were released after 10 hours of grilling and after giving an undertaking that they will not visit the area again.

There is considerable tension in the area, with 10 platoons of armed police camping at Kujang in Jagatsighpur. But the accused are still at large and people in the three panchayats of Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gada Kujang even more resolute about not giving up their land for the proposed steel plant. The district administration in the meanwhile prefers to play it safe.

"We want to find a solution through negotiations. Once the majority comes around to our viewpoint, we can take care of the remaining ideological resistance," says Y K Jethwa, superintendent of police, Jagatsinghpur. He also said that the area was peaceful and that deployment of the police force would make people feel confident.
False claims The pro-plant posco Jan Sampark Vikas Parishad leader Tamil Pradhan, however, has rubbished the administration's claim saying, "If posco officials can be kidnapped in broad daylight, how can someone talk of peace. posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (ppss) is terrorising people. If this continues, the people will lose faith in the administration's ability to maintain law and order."

But are people ready to comply? "We hear they have stationed police at Kujang. But people will fight even if they bring in 70 platoons," says Biswajit Roy, national convenor of Rashtriya Yuva Sangthan, another outfit resisting the project. Calling it a compromise on the country's sovereignty, he asks, "What investment are they talking about? Iron ore which costs Rs 2,600 per tonne in the international market, will be available to them for Rs 26 per tonne. Who's gaining?"

By taking posco officials hostage, ppss and its allies have made it clear that they are against any kind of negotiation. This is bound to complicate things for posco, which is now trying to negotiate with the would-be oustees directly. However, with acquisitions not yet started, the hurdles for posco are just expected to increase.

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