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Fresh tension at Posco’s Odisha project site

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Jagatsinghpur, 11 Sept:

There is fresh tension at Nuagaon in the proposed Posco project site after a group of local people demolished a wooden gate erected to prevent entry of Posco and district officials to the area on Wednesday.

The barricade was erected in February this year, after villagers demolished the boundary wall constructed by Posco at the controversial project site, without the necessary judicial clearances.

A large majority of the villagers , who are angry over the demolition of the barricade by a handful of pro-Posco supporters , alleged that the latter played into the hands of the company officials.

The group which forcibly demolished the gate was led by two local persons,  Chinmay Nayak and Jawahar Mohanty, reports said.

“We removed the gate because we wanted to facilitate meaningful interaction between the company and district officials with the villagers. Only discussions can help sort out issues like payment of compensation to betel vine owners and maintenance allowance to the vine labourers. Both the company and district officials have been using the barricade as a pretext not to come for discussions.  There is no longer any obstruction, so let them come now,”Nayak said.

According to Jawahar Mohanty, the erection of the gate had little meaning as the Posco officials had begun repairing their transit office at the site which was set on fire by local people in February this year.

Mohanty said, “Not a single demand has been fulfilled after the gate was erected. The Posco officials are not giving maintenance allowance to thousands of betel vine labourers, who are living in a pathetic condition. Therefore, preventing the officials’ entry is pointless. They are welcome now and they should take a final call on the local people’s 14-point charter of demands within two weeks. If they fail to do that , we will take over the acquired land and rebuild the betel vines at the project site.”

However, most of the villagers suspect that the demolition of the gate was a clever move by Posco officials to divide the people and take advantage of it.

Pro-Posco leader Tamil Pradhan, who disapproved of the act, alleged that Posco officials had instigated some villagers, involved in contract works, to demolish the gate.

“We continue to be united in our fight to press for our just demands,” he said.

The chairman of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti Abhaya Sahoo described the demolition of the gate as a big drama created by Posco offcials to divide the people. “They may try any trick they want, but they will never succeed,” he said.