POSCO: Villagers demand 5% of share in company's profits

By Ravleen Kaur
Published: Thursday 31 January 2008

some people in Orissa's Jagatsinghpur district, in a complete turnaround from their earlier stand, agreed to give up land for the posco steel plant on January 5, but with conditions. They have asked for a 5 per cent share in the profits of the company, among other demands.

In another development, the Central Empowered Committee, which advises the supreme court on forest-related cases, recommended that mines, steel plant and captive port-- posco's proposed projects--should be considered as one and reviewed in entirety for its ecological significance and rehabilitation plans rather than as three different projects. posco filed an affidavit in the apex court on January 4, contesting the recommendations and asking for separate clearances for its three "separate" projects. The case will come up for hearing in the third week of January.

While posco officials haven't agreed to the people's demands of sharing the company's profits yet, the Orissa government is planning to set up a high-level committee to discuss them. The villagers also want Rs 25 lakh per acre for their agricultural land and Rs 40 lakh per acre for their homestead land. Other demands include job guarantee, Rs 1,000-monthly allowance to people above 60 and Rs 3,000 per month for families who do not have members eligible for jobs, including the landless who were employed as daily wagers in the betel farms.

The demands were finalized in a meeting organized by Damodar Rout, a local mla. "The 52-member committee I formed has made the demand. The state government will take a final decision after the demarcation survey is done. However, it appears unlikely that the company will share its profits with people," Rout said.

When officials went for the survey, the villagers did not allow them to do it. They said their demands must be fulfilled first. The survey has been put off for an indefinite period.

Under duress Activists from Orissa Bachao Andolan (oba), a protesting organization, say the demands have been made by "so-called posco supporters" only, mostly in the Nuagaon panchayat. "The talk of 5 per cent share in profits is a rumour. Some people had earlier demanded Rs 14 lakh per acre for their agricultural land and a two-room house with all amenities. But posco officers rejected the demands saying they were exorbitant. The officers told them to come up with a charter of demands, which they have now," says Nikunj Bhutia of oba.

People of three panchayats--Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gandhakujanga--have been protesting against land acquisition for the steel plant and a captive port for posco since July 2005. Activists also say people gave in to posco because of the threats and punishments they were being subjected to after the villages were cordoned in November last year (see 'posco war', Down To Earth, December 31, 2007). S P Mishra, public relations officer of the Orissa governor, says the imbroglio will be resolved soon. "A lot of time has been lost and constructions have to begin by April. So, the government may give in to the demands," he said.

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