Bhubaneswar, Feb 4: Land acquisition for Posco’s $12 billion steel plant in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district passed off peacefully Monday under heavy police deployment, an official said.
“The land acquisition was carried out in Gobindpur village peacefully. There was no trouble,” District Collector Satya Kumar Mallick told IANS.
“At least 10 betel vines were demolished and compensation of about Rs.13 lakh was paid to the villagers. The land acquisition work was complete for today (Monday). It will resume tomorrow,” he added.
A senior Posco official said his company expects to start work for the project once the government hands over to it the required land.
“We are very happy with the development. We would like to continue our dialogue with the local villagers so that no unexpected incident happens,” In Gweon Lee, general manager of Posco India’s corporate relations department, said.
Posco’s proposed 12 million tonnes per annum steel plant – the largest foreign investment in India – is to come up near the port town of Paradip, about 120 km from here.
The local administration claimed it earlier acquired about 2,000 acres of land in the region in 2011.
It needs to acquire another 700 acres – mostly in Gobindpur area – for the project. However, villagers had been opposing the acquisition.
The land acquisition in the village started Sunday, despite protests by Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), which has been spearheading the movement against the project since the company signed an agreement with the state government for the plant in 2005.
Hundreds of PPSS activists Monday held a rally in the region against the government’s move.
“The way the administration acquired the land without the consent of the villagers is undemocratic. Police entered the village forcibly and beat up residents, including women and children. Police also forcibly destroyed betel vines,” PPSS spokesman Prashant Paikray told IANS.
“Our protest against the project will continue,” he added.
Meanwhile, opposition parties criticised the state government for acquiring lands from the villagers forcefully.
“We condemn the way police attacked protesting women and children at the site. The government must withdraw police from the area,” Dibakar Naik, state unit secretary of the Communist Party of India, told reporters in Bhubaneswar.
He said the party will submit a memorandum to state Governor M.C. Bhandare in this regard Tuesday.
The state unit of the BJP also accused the government of using force against people and said it will send a fact-finding team to the area Tuesday.