DAXSLY – Nations conscience must be awakened to anti-POSCO struggle

PRESS RELEASE: New Delhi : 07 June 2011

Nation’s conscience must be awakened to anti-POSCO struggle

Tackling corruption must begin by scrapping the scandalous POSCO project

The brutal police action unleashed by the UPA Government on Baba Ramdev’s
fasting camp in Delhi has shocked the nation’s conscience; even the Hon’ble
Supreme Court has taken suo moto cognisance of the blatant disregard for
fundamental rights, and questioned the Government raison de d’etre to so
quell dissent. Most mainstream political parties have jostled with each
other to gain attention in condemning the incident; and this has by far been
the only issue covered and debated non-stop by the electronic and print
media for some days now.

However, little or nothing is being said or done about a far more serious
situation that is developing in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha, where
villagers of Dhinkia, Gobindpur, Patana, etc., are resolutely and peacefully
opposing the forcible acquisition of their private and forest lands by the
Odisha Government for the benefit of South Korean steel major POSCO. Over
the past few days, at least 26 platoons of riot police (over 1,000 police
personnel) have been deployed to ruthlessly beat down women, children, the
aged, and men who have kept a day/night vigil and not allowed any State
functionary, police or company official to enter these villages; thus
continuing a phenomenal act of peaceful resistance to POSCO venture,
sustained for six years now under the leadership of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram

Brutal police tactics, criminal intimidation and illegal methods are being
employed here to wrest from these peacefully protesting villagers 4000 acres
of extraordinarily fertile agricultural and forest land to establish the
single largest industrial foreign investment conceived in recent times. The
project involves the establishment of a mega steel plant (12 MTPA), backed
by a massive coal-fired thermal power plant (400 MW expandable to 1,100 MW),
and a major captive port for handling the world’s largest cargo ships
(Capesize, usually more than a quarter km. in length).1 The project involves
further land acquisition for a captive iron ore mine requiring 6,100 acres
of predominantly forest land in Khandadhar Hills of Sundergarh district and
at least 2,000 acres more for a massive gated township to house POSCO
employees. In addition, there would be dedicated water, road and rail
linkages that will further exacerbate the displacement and environmental
destruction caused by the project.

POSCO: A scandal far bigger than 2G scam

It is high time the nation’s conscience is affected by what the project
affected communities are suffering under the hands of the Navin Patnaik
regime in Odisha. It is time to appreciate the fact that the POSCO project
is perhaps the most shocking example of corrupt practices legitimised by
State support. This is because the project is nothing short of a legalised
loot of our natural resources – iron ore in this case. In an unprecedented
deal, Indian and Odisha Governments have supported POSCO’s demands to mine
600 million tonnes of the finest iron in India on a 30-year lease. Of this,
30% can be exported for processing in POSCO’s Korean plants and thus
endorsing profiteering abroad! With current fine iron ore rates crossing Rs.
8,000/tonne, it is simple arithmetic to note that POSCO can recover its
capital investment of Rs. 52,000 crores in less than eight years, an
unthinkable proposition in any industrial venture! Truly, the POSCO venture
is a scandal far worse than those involving 2G and Commonwealth Games.

In fact, A. Raja, principal accused in the 2G scam, may have facilitated
POSCO’s entry when as Indian Environment Minister in 2007 he accorded the
first major statutory clearance by approving the captive port component, one
day before he transited to the Telecom Ministry. This was done without any
review and also in response to severe pressure from then Union Finance
Minister Chidambaram. Various key environmental and forest clearances
quickly followed, all by subverting laws and breaking down the massive
industrial/mining venture into little parts to hide their true
environmental, social and economic consequences.

Three years later when Jairam Ramesh, the sitting Environment Minister,
ordered a comprehensive review of these clearances by setting up two
independent investigations, both committees confirmed that the clearances
had been secured by fraud and subterfuge, and strongly recommended
withdrawal of these illegal approvals. The appropriate action that the
Minister should have taken was to cancel these fraudulent clearances and
initiate criminal action against all involved in the POSCO decisions. Such
action would have been true evidence of the oft-made claim by the UPA
Government that it is serious about tackling corruption.

Instead, Jairam Ramesh claimed he was working towards “cooperative
federalism” and on the basis of his “faith and trust” in the Odisha
Government approved the project’s environment and CRZ clearances on 31
January 2011 and subsequently the forest clearance on 2nd May. This was
despite absolute evidence that the Forest Rights Act had been fundamentally
violated by deliberately overlooking Gram Sabha resolutions (convened by the
constitutionally empowered Panchayats in the project affected villages) that
clearly rejected the project. Ramesh, thus, became a party to the fraud in
environmental decision-making and also directly responsible for the
dangerous situation that is developing in the POSCO affected villages today.

We fear that the exigent State police action that is now underway in these
villages may result in another Kalinganagar or Nandigram type of situation.
The scant attention paid by mainstream political parties, the media and the
public is only strengthening the Navin Patnaik Government to disregard
Constitution norms and act ruthlessly to secure lands for the advantage of

In an effort to prevent such a carnage from taking place, various eminent
people in the country have intervened and appealed to the Prime Minister of
India to “immediately ask the Odisha government to halt this illegal attack,
to withdraw all clearances given in violation of law, and to take an
impartial position in the court cases filed by the people. Failure to stop
this attack will show that the UPA government’s much vaunted concern over
issues of displacement, forest rights and "inclusive growth" is simply an
eyewash.” A copy of this appeal is enclosed.

While endorsing these demands, we additionally urge that:
1. The Odisha Government must immediately withdraw its police operations
and forcible acquisition of land for POSCO.
2. The Central Bureau of Investigation must immediately expand the
scope of its ongoing investigations against A Raja by reviewing his role in the
POSCO clearances, and that of all those who have been involved in illegally
promoting this scandalous project, possibly including then Finance Minister
and presently Home Minister, Chidambaram.
3. The scandalous POSCO project must be scrapped as its benefits will
be accrued mainly by major American financiers (including Warren Buffet) who
are major stockholders of this South Korean company.

Issued by: Environment Support Group (Bangalore), Campaign for Survival
and Dignity, National Forum of Forest People andForest Workers (NFFPFW),
National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Delhi Solidarity Group,
All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) and All India Students’
Association (AISA)

Contact numbers: 9560756628, 9868337493, 9868259836

Living Farms is an organization of concerned individuals opposed to
agrochemical TNCs, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and chemical
pesticides. It promotes and advocates for ecological agriculture and pushes
for genuine agrarian reform as the foundation of food security & sovereignty
and social justice. Living Farms works with farmers’ organizations and
networks with NGOs, support institutions, scientists, health
workers/professionals, environmentalists, and academics

Living Farms Plot No.1181 / 2146, Ratnakarbag-2,
Tankapani Road,
Bhubaneswar – 751018,

"How firm we stand and plant our feet upon our land determines the strength
of our children’s heartbeats."
Poolly Koutchak, Unalakleet, Alaska


One response to “DAXSLY – Nations conscience must be awakened to anti-POSCO struggle

  1. POSCO is another Nandigram or Singur. The frightening thing is it is much, much bigger. Therefore it needs greater brutal force on the parts of the Indian agents of the MNCs/TNCs (including the likes of the pretentiously philanthropic Warren Buffet and his other Yankee fraternity). Navin Patnaik chose to exit the NDA to prove his “noble” intentions to the UPA and gain the tacit support of MMS and that semi-literate Italian. Chadambaram’s role has been well known all along. He was the legal counsel for the Vedanta group after all – whose record of illegal mining, encroachment of forest land in many areas including Chhatisgarh has made Dantewada and Dandakaranya what it is today. The so called Maoists didn’t drop from the sky one fine morning.

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