Press Release sent by Prashant Paikaray, Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti
Notwithstanding consistent villainous efforts made by POSCO to trap and divide the people, the agitation on the ground still remains as determined as before. We are determined to continue with our struggle till POSCO is completely driven out from the area. Quite contrary to POSCO and government’s propaganda, thirty families from the village have refused to take compensation for the already demolished betel vines nurseries. Instead, they have expressed their determination to restructure the forcefully destroyed beetle vines in their land. Our villagers have also stopped the trench digging work for boundary wall for POSCO. However the state police continues to camp inside Govindpur village for the past seven months and has created a climate of fear and oppression. They are also working day in and day out to divide the people with the help of criminal elements.
Recently, on the recommendation of the NHRC, the district administration has awarded Rs 4.5 lakh to the families of the first martyer of PPSS late Dula Mandal. You may know that on April 20 2008, people under the banner of PPSS offered shramadan (Voluntary labour) by digging the mouth of river Jatadhari to avoid the continuous water logging problem in their agricultural lands. As the Government did not heed the repeated appeal from the villagers, to mitigate the water logging problem, people themselves undertook to carry out the work. On June 20, 2008 , when the villagers while returning after finishing the dredging work faced brutal violent attack from the persons hired by POSCO and supported by a few pro-POSCO villagers from Govindpur village. Dula Mandal of PPSS was killed in the bomb attack. Another PPSS member, Dhruba Sahani was critically injured. The incident evoked huge infuriation but leader of PPSS did not allow people to resort to any violent retaliatory means. The attackers instead were held in hostage and then handed over to police unhurt.
While we people are fighting one ugly corporate house like POSCO, suffers like us in Niyamgiri have just own similar battle. We would like to salute the victory of our brothers and sisters in Niyamagiri hills for protecting their invaluable resources from the tentacle of another devilish multinational company Vedanta. The overwhelming opinions in the all the Gram Sabhas to protect their Niyamagiri hills has inspired us and added on to our conviction that people have sovereign, democratic decision making power to protect and nurture the resources for their own well being. We welcome the decision of the Honourable Supreme Court of India for interpreting provisions of our laws and asking the government to seek the opinion of Gram Sabhas on proposal of mining lease and act on the resolutions of the Gramsabhas. As you know, a compelled state government unwillingly held Gram Sabhas in 12 villages of Niyamagiri hills due to the Supreme Court order. Our situation here is quite similar to the one in Niyamgiri. We are surprised and shocked to see no response from the state when the case is similar in nature. Gramsabhs in our area have also similar decisions in the past. Unfortunately, neither the state nor the judiciary has taken note of the resolutions of the Gramsabhas in years 2008, 2011 and 2012. The last one was also video monitored by the State.
On the one hand, the POSCO sponsored agents are repeatedly threatening our villagers with dire consequences if we do not support POSCO’s move. Adding to the injustice and oppression, the Company in the garb of Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR), is bribing people to trap and divide the villagers. We demand a proper enquiry in to the expenditure of POSCO CSR project in the area.
On the other hand, the police is acting as the terror agent of POSCO. The police is using its coercive force to suppress our constitutional right and democratic freedom to dissent. Our people cannot go out and receive treatment because of the threat of arrests. Many cases did not have any basis and are pure concoct by the police to keep the agitators inside jail for as many days. Till now 200 cases have cases have been registered against our villagers by the government, 1500 warrants have issued out of which 340 are against women. Now five persons including our leader Mr. Abhaya Sahoo are in jail for the last four months.
In the meanwhile the Government continues to disobey constitutional offices in its endeavour to pursue the interest of POSCO. As we have informed you earlier, despite the stay order from the green tribunal, the state administration has been illegally felling trees in the project area. Hearing petition of Mr. Prafulla Samantara of Lok Shakti Abhiyan, the NGT had ordered a stay against tree felling in the area. Another petition by Prafullaji challenging the forest clearance given to the project without settling the villager’s rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 is under active consideration of the judiciary now. The hearing took place on September 2, 2013 where the ministery of Environment and forest (MOEF) and POSCO have joined hands to defend their illegal action.
In a recent development the Government of India has got The Land Acquisition Bill passed in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. It may create some hope in some quarters but we are eager to know how it will address our issue where the land under our possession for more than a century is a forest land and no title has been settled in our favour under FRA 2006. We request all people working on this issue to raise concerns at all level and force the state to honour our Gram Sabha decision.
This is a critical time for us and we earnestly request you to visit our area, interact with our villagers and boost their moral to carry on their fight against a brutal multinational giant like POSCO.
Mobile no- 09437571547
E-Mail – [email protected]