The Odisha government on Sunday resumed land acquisition for Korean steel maker Posco's 12 million tonne per annum steel project in Jagatsinghpur district after more than a year amidst fierce protests from anti-Posco villagers and baton charge by police.
Tension ran high at Gobindpur-Nuagaon border, the site for Posco's proposed $12 billion (Rs 54,000) plant about 200 km east of Bhubaneswar, when the district administration officials entered the area with police force in wee hours of the morning and started demolishing betel vines.
Women, who have been on a demonstration along with children and old people since January 14 forming a human chain, rang bells to alert villagers who then opposed the land acquisition. Police allegedly used baton to disperse crowd.
"We started land acquisition in Gobindpur village this morning in a peaceful manner and acquired the betel vines and land of those who had given their consent," Jagatsinghpur collector SK Mallick said, adding that there was no use of force on people.
The Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), spearheading the movement against the $12 billion (Rs 54,000) plant, however alleged the district administration
forcefully entered the area with more than 12 platoon police.
"The police came to Gobindpur-Nuagaon border at 4 am and attacked the women and children. More than 50 persons were injured in the process, three of them critically," PPSS spokesperson Prasant Paikray told Hindustan Times, adding that while the National Green Tribunal had already suspended the environment clearance to the proposed Posco project, the Naveen Patnaik headed state government was behaving like an agent of the company.
Posco signedan MoU with the Odisha government in June 2005 to set up the green field steel project, touted as India's single largest investment. The MoU has expired in 2010 and has yet to be renewed so far.
People of eight villages under Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujanga gram panchayats have been opposing the plant under the leadership of PPSS.
The state government had already acquired about 2000 acres for Posco, but suspended land acquisition in June 2011 in the face of stiff protests from villagers.
In December 2012, the district administration decided to resume the land acquisition work to acquire the remaining 700 acres needed for the commencement of the project.
Alarmed by the administration's move, the villagers also have resumed their protest demonstration fronted by about 400 children since January 14.
On January 28, Union commerce and industries minister Anand Sharma had assured the South Korean government to review the works for Posco at the Partnership Summit in Agra.