Rosalin Rout, 10, may not be in class when her school reopens after summer vacation in a week. “Going to school has become secondary. At the moment, I must fight for our land and the livelihood of my parents,” says Rout, student of a primary school in Gobindpur village, about 200 km east of Bhubaneswar.
Rout would not be the only one missing classes. She is one the 400 school-going children who have flummoxed the Jagatsinghpur district administration by lying on the road leading to the betel vines of Gobindpur since June 8 to prevent land acquisition for Korean steel major Posco’s proposed $12 billion (R 4,000 crore) project.
Backed by parents and village elders, the children are continuing their 24x7 vigil to protect their betel vines — the prime source of income in the area — from government officials. The villagers are spraying water on the young protesters from fertiliser-sprayers to help them sustain their stir at a time when day temperatures are routinely above 40 degree Celsius.
The stir forced the state to backtrack on Saturday and 20 platoons (600 personnel) of police force moved out.
On Sunday, Jagatsinghpur collector NC Jena said there would be no land acquisition for the project at the proposed site near Paradip for the five days in view of the “Rajo” festival.
Resuming land acquisition on May 18 after the union environment ministry gave its nod for diverting forestland for the project on the basis of the state government’s claim that no traditional forest dwellers lived in the area, the administration has so far demolished more than 500 acres of betel vines by paying R5 crore as compensation.
Of the 4,004 acre required for the plant, about 3,000 acre is forestland. The administration had acquired about 1,000 acre in July last year.
Posco signed an MoU with Orissa in June 2005 to set up the 12 million tonne per annum greenfield steel plant. People of eight villages under Dhinkia, Gadakujanga and Nuagaon gram panchayats have been opposing the plant.