About 2,000 villagers protested against POSCO‘s planned $12 billion steel plant on Saturday. Women and children formed a human ring around the site. Local opposition has long delayed the South Korean company building its 4 million tonnes plant. It is considered India’s biggest foreign investment project, in Orissa.
POSCO signed the agreement for the mill in 2005 and it was scheduled to begin production by the end of 2011. Protests, environmental concerns and government inquiries into alleged illegalities at a related mining concession have delayed it.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh gave the plant clearance in January on certain conditions, including ensuring that tribal rights and forest protection laws are observed. He said while giving permission he was against regularization of illegalities but had to. In fact tribal rights protected by Forest Rights Act, and environment concerns are utterly ignored and violated.
Orissa’s government started acquiring land for the world’s No. 3 steel company after the environment ministry’s January approval. POSCO needs 4,000 acres (1,600 hectares) of land. Local officials tried to persuade the villagers to back away and not use women and children as human shields, media said. About 500 policemen were deployed to try to control the protesters, roughly half them women and children.
Locals, who say the POSCO mill will deprive them of their forest-based livelihood, have refused to budge. Despite repeated warning from the police the villagers didn’t move. It is learnt that government had already bought 1,800 acres. “We will not allow them to enter into the site. We will continue our protest peacefully,” Prasant Paikray, a protester, said. “We will fight this battle until last breath,” he said, as per Reuters. Paikray accused the authorities of acquiring land forcibly.
Angry villagers are increasingly assertive in refusing to give up land for manufacturing plant. New economic policies are proved to be against to the interests of the vasts masses of India.