The Orissa government heaved a sigh of relief after the three Posco officials who were taken hostage earlier on Friday were released at around midnight.
The hostages were handed over to the Jagasinghpur district police officials who visited Gobindpur after holding hectic parleys with the leaders of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) for the safe return of the Posco officials. The three Posco officials – Rojalin Parida, Debasis Swain and Paramananda Das — who spent nearly seven hours in captivity were safe and did not sustain any injuries.
The hostage drama began at around 4.40 pm when the vehicle carrying the three Posco officials was stopped in Gobindpur village for a routine check. District police officials of Jagatsinghpur district claimed that the Posco officials did not take their prior permission before entering into the Dhinkia panchayat in Jagatsignhpur district.
Dhinkia has emerged as the nerve centre of anti-Posco activists.
After the three Posco officials were taken captive, PPSS leaders had demanded a written guarantee from the South Korean steel company not to send any staff to enter into the project site again so that the captives could be released.
Abhaya Sahu, chairman of PPSS told Hindustan Times, "They entered into our area despite our opposition. The three persons, one lady and two others, have been taken hostage. They will only be released after Posco gives us a written guarantee that no representative of the South Korean company will enter again into the Dhinkia, Gadakujang and Nuagaon panchayats of Jagatsinghpur district". These are the three panchayats where 4004 acres of land has been earmarked for the $12 billion steel project, which is the biggest FDI in India.
Posco-India has been asked by the state government to start direct negotiations with the project-affected people for the acquisition of private land in the area and the visit of the three officials formed part of the process to start negotiations with the people.
Sources said the visits had begun in the last couple of days without any police protection. Suresh Mohapatra, central range revenue divisional commissioner told HT, "We are still ascertaining the details. But the district administration was probably not informed about this visit".
Posco officials are making a final attempt to mend fences with the PPSS who have put up road blockades in Dhinkia panchayat.
Earlier a Posco spokesperson had told HT the company would go for alternative options if they cannot prevail upon the people in Dhinkia to accept rehabilitation and resettlement packages and leave the land voluntarily for the steel project. This visit aimed at explaining the people in Dhinkia about the R&R packages.