The Orissa government on Tuesday suspended land acquisition for Korean steel major Posco’s $12 billion (Rs 54,000 crore) plant in Jagatsinghpur district indefinitely in view of widespread protests.
Paradip additional district magistrate Sarojkanta Choudhury said the district administration took the step after instructions from the government. “We will wait for further (orders) on the matter,” Choudhury said.
Ostensibly the state government was daunted by the support the anti-Posco demonstrators were getting from civil society groups and political parties. Social activists such as Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar have visited the affected areas to show solidarity with the demonstrators.
The Congress, BJP, CPI, CPM, RJD and Forward Bloc have condemned the state government on this count.
Prasanta Paikray, spokesperson of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), which is spearheading the anti-Posco agitation, told HT the demonstration would continue till the administration halted land acquisition and withdrew the police from the area.
“Though it has temporarily suspended operation, a 20-platoon (one platoon comprises about 50 troopers) police force is resting in various schools of the area. The agitation will continue till Posco is driven out,” Paikray said.
This is the second time the administration has suspended land acquisition indefinitely. It did so in July last year in accordance with an order from the Union environment ministry after there were allegations of violations of forest rights.
However, it resumed land acquisition on May 18 after the ministry permitted the diversion of forestland for the project. This was done on the basis of the state government’s stand that no traditional forest-dwellers lived in the area.
Of the 4,004 acres (one acre = 43,560 square feet) required for the plant, about 3,000 acres is forestland.
The administration demolished more than 500 acres of betel vine by paying R5 crore, with the rate of compensation being R11,000 per decimal (one decimal = 435.6 square feet).
However, there was stiff opposition from the villagers when the administration tried to enter the Dhikia gram panchayat, the nerve centre of the anti-Posco agitation, on June 8.