Bhubaneswar, Jan 17 :
Human rights violations connected to the POSCO-India project must be addressed as a matter of priority by India and South Korea during South Korean President Park Geun-Hye’s state visit to India, said rights groups, Video Volunteers and ESCR-Net in a press release issued today.
“In the lead up to President Park’s visit to India, Indian officials took several measures aimed at accelerating POSCO’s Odisha project. India’s new Environment Minister revalidated environmental clearance for the project’s steel plant, in violation of the stay order given by India’s National Green Tribunal. At the same time Odisha’s Chief Minister approved POSCO’s compliance report, a prerequisite for the granting of a prospecting license for mining rights,” the release noted.
Stating that national and international rights groups have repeatedly urged India and South Korea to suspend the POSCO-India steel project until and unless it complies with international human rights standards, Chris Grove, Director of ESCR-Net said, “In light of serious allegations of human rights abuse, India and South Korea should suspend any further activities on the POSCO project and take meaningful and immediate action to address human rights concerns.”
Grove also said, “development projects should not come at the expense of the human rights of people”.
Video Volunteers along with several other Human Rights organisations has been documenting the people’s movement in solidarity with the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.
The film ‘The People Vs. POSCO’ released in October 2013 and was shot by Video Volunteers’ Community Correspondents during a fact-finding mission carried out by ESCR-net and IHRC- NYU in November 2012. The mission also resulted in a report titled ‘The Price of Steel’.
The video and report found that Indian authorities have actively targeted those who speak out against the POSCO-India project with violence, arbitrary arrests and detentions. Local police have barricaded villages, occupied schools, levelled thousands of fabricated criminal charges against individuals opposing the project, and have failed to protect individuals from consistent and sometimes fatal attacks by private actors who are allegedly motivated by the interests of the company and of the State.
The report further concluded that India’s attempts to forcibly evict people from their lands to make way for the project violated both international legal standards and Indian law.
Video Volunteers’ Director Stalin K. said, “This project is a classic example of the sort of development we’re pursuing. Just because they live in villages there is an assumption that their economy is not developed whereas it is far more developed than what POSCO proposes.”
He added that, “The struggle against POSCO is not just about fighting illegal acquisition but questioning the very method of non-consultative development that destroys existing local economies in the name of a national prosperity.”
In October 1st 2013, eight independent U.N. human rights experts called for a halt to the mega-steel project, citing serious human rights concerns including the impact of forced evictions on affected communities’ livelihoods and means of subsistence. The experts urged India, POSCO and the Republic of Korea to fulfil their respective human rights responsibilities.
The government of India has yet to respond to the human rights concerns raised by rights groups or publicly address the Press Statement released on October 1 by the group of U.N. experts, the press release noted.