The Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) today threatened to revive its agitation if the Odisha government hands over the land acquired for the Posco project to JSW for its proposed mega steel plant and demanded that the acquired land be returned to farmers. “We will revive the agitation against any move to hand over the land for industrial purpose. JSW may be interested in the land, but we will not allow it to set up the unit in the area,” PPSS president Abhaya Sahu told PTI. The PPSS had spearheaded the agitation against setting up Posco steel plant on the land by displacing farmers. “The people will not tolerate it and more people will come forward to save the land,” Sahu said claiming that at least five persons (4 from anti-Posco group and one from pro-Posco camp) had laid down their lives during anti-displacement agitation.
Sahu also claimed at least 100 new betel vines have already come up on the land acquired by the state government for the Posco project. He said the police have registered at least 32 cases against the villagers for re-occupying the land and setting up betel vines for which they have already received compensation from the government. On claims of villagers on the land, Sahu said: “The villagers might not have legal title over the land, but they were in possession of the land for decades before they were evicted. We will not allow use of the land other than agriculture purpose.”
“The villagers were making a living by raising paddy, betel leaf, drum sticks and fish ponds at the site before it was snatched away for the Posco project”, Sahu pointed out. The state government, on the other hand claimed that it has already acquired 2700 acres of land for Posco project. While about 1800 acre of the land was handed over to the company, the remaining land was in government’s land bank. Meanwhile, the state government has cancelled the land allotment made to Posco for not utilising it for over three years. On April 29, JSW chief Sajan Jindal met Odisha Chief Secretary AP Padhi and said that Posco’s site could be a location for his company to set up a 10 mtpa greenfield steel mill.
“The land acquired for Posco project is now in the land bank of the state government. There has been no decision to return the land to the people as done in Singur of West Bengal. The Posco site is now in the land bank,” Odisha’s Industries Minister Debi Prasad Mishra told PTI. Asked whether the land would be given to JSW which was interested to set up a steel plant near Paradip, Mishra said: “No such decision has been taken so far. However, there is a marked difference between Singur and Dhinkia.” During the encroachment free drive from Dhinkia area, the state government had demolished around 1,592 betel vines and paid compensation to the farmers.