Reported by Vishwanath Kumar
Dhinkia ( Jagatsinghpur), June 2 :
The Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), the local outfit which has been spearheading an agitation to demand the shifting of the site for Posco’s steel plant over the last 9 years, is now pinning its hopes on support from BJP leader and Union minister for Tribal Affairs Jual Oram to ward off fresh attempts by the Odisha government and the South Korean company to go ahead with further land acquisition and construction work.
With Oram becoming a Union cabinet minister, fresh hopes have been rekindled among the anti- land acquisition activists in Dhinkia, Gadakujang and Nuagaon Gram Panchayats coming under the proposed steel plant site, sources said.
As the state BJP president Oram was at the forefront of anti-Posco agitation and his party too had expressed solidarity with our resistance movement, PPSS chairman Abhay Sahoo said.
“I talked to Jual Oram over telephone on Monday and the tribal affairs minister assured us that his party’s stand remains the same as it was earlier. We are going to meet Oram very shortly as he had visited the project site several times in the past to join and lead our movement against Posco”, said Sahoo.
“Oram had strongly opposed the move of the ousted Congress led UPA government’s decision to lease out Khandadhar iron ore reserve in Sundargarh district to Posco as a large number of tribals are likely to be affected. The tribal leader had also opposed the move of the UPA and BJD led state government to hand over fertile land in our area to Posco. Now it is fair to hope that he will continue to stick to his earlier stand in the matter,” Sahoo added.
However, the resistance movement against the mega steel venture spearheaded by PPSS has lost steam over the last one year. In the just concluded general election, majority of votes were polled in favour of ruling BJD while the CPI candidate backed by PPSS came a poor second in Dhinkia, widely regarded as the citadel of anti-Posco movement.
The state government had managed to tide over the protest and had acquired 2700 acre of land required for the project on 4 July last year.
“Jual Oram had visited Dhinkia last on December 19, 2011 and had termed the Posco project a legalized loot of state’s natural resources while addressing a public meeting at Patana. He has been a vocal critic of the project. He was among the first to oppose it when the state government had inked an MOU with Posco in 2005. Oram had also criticised the state government for violating the Forest Right Act by claiming tribals and other forest dwellers are not residing in these areas”, recalled the PPSS chief.
However, there are apprehensions that Oram may not be able to take a belligerent stance over Posco after joining the Modi cabinet and may have to toe the line of the NDA government.
“Everything would depend on how Prime Minister Modi looks at the 9-year old proposed steel plant and port project by the South Korean steel behemoth, touted as the biggest ever foreign direct investment in India. Modi is known to have been a pro-industry perosn and may favour the idea unless of course, he finds it of little benefit to Odisha and national economy,” a leading industry watcher in Bhubaneswar said.