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Priya Ranjan Sahu , Hindustan Times
Bhubaneswar, July 04, 2013
The administration of Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district on Thursday completed the land acquisition process for Korean steel major Posco’s $12 billion plant by dismantling 25 betel vines on the last day amid resistance from anti-Posco farmers. In its second phase of land acquisition that started from February in Gobindpur village, about 150 km east of Bhubaneswar, the administration acquired 700 acres dismantling 488 betel vines and paying Rs. 6.72 crore as compensation.

“We will soon hand over the land to (state run) Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO),” said Paradeep additional district magistrate Surajit Dash told HT.

Though the administration maintained the land acquisition process was peaceful, many villagers alleged police beat them up and their vines were demolished forcefully.

Some of the villagers did not accept the compensation offered by the administration in protest and two women even tried to commit suicide after their vines were dismantled. Villagers have defied the administration by re-erecting some of the vines.

“The officials asked me to collect my compensation cheque after dismantling my vine on Wednesday morning. I refused saying let their children enjoy it,” Bachana Mohanty, a middle-aged woman, said bitterly.

An administration official said though the administration had “acquired” the land, it was not the end of the problem, but just the beginning of it.

“Just dismantling the betel vines is not land acquisition. More conflict awaits real physical land acquisition,” he said.

Posco had signed an MoU with the Odisha government in June 2005 to set up the 12 million tonne per annum green field steel project touted as India’s single largest foreign direct investment over 4004 acres. People of eight villages under Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujanga gram panchayats have been opposing the project under the leadership of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS).

Due to stiff resistance by villagers, the government scaled down the area required by the company to 2700 acres.

In 2011, the administration acquired 2000 acres by dismantling more than 600 betel vines in Nuagaon village and disbursing Rs. 9 crore as compensation, while the state government has handed over 1704 acres of it to Posco.

But the administration had to discontinue the land acquisition for more than two years after hundreds of women and children blocked the entry point to the vines at Gobindpur-Nuagaon border.