State acquires land for steel plant project in forced acquisition
The illegal large-scale forced acquisition of lands by the State for the proposed South Korean POSCO steel plant have left displaced villagers living in extremely unhygienic transit camps. Odisha, India. 24 July 2011.
There is a truly strong and democratic people’s movement convinced of their legitimate rights
and firmly resolved not to give up their lands or livelihoods for the benefit of either a
foreign company or an arguably larger common good for the people of the State. The
movement is continuing to gain momentum as villagers from different hamlets take turns
to safeguard their lands from attempts to destroy their betel plantations. Most people
interviewed were determined not to give up their lands, even at the cost of their lives.
Participation of people’s organizations from all over the country is adding strength to
the local resolve even as the movement is facing increasing threats from the state which
is moving into the area by a massive clearance of surrounding forest lands. The large
majority of these villages are not ready to leave the forest lands on which they have been
cultivating betel vines and cashew for centuries because it will destroy their livelihoods
and consequently their very existence.
On July 24th, there were five vans and four jeeps filled with armed police stationed in
Gadakujang near Mahaveer Chowk purportedly for maintaining the law and order
situation in the area. The DySP, Jagatsinghpur and Tahsildar Kailash Chandra of
Tirutwar refused to divulge any further information. There was large scale tree
clearance under strong and armed paramilitary supervision. In later conversations
with the DC and the SP, it was gathered that the police presence was to facilitate the
clearance of forest land by IDCO. The DC also informed that it was not necessary for the district administration to either consult or obtain authorization from the village panchayats since they were acting under the mandate given to the police by the constitution. The SP also maintained that the police would continue assisting
the tree clearance operation till all the POSCO lands were cleared. In other words, this
clearing operation was being conducted in complete disregard of the wishes of the local
A visit was also made to the transit camp set up by POSCO where the so-called pro-POSCO
families from Dhinkia and Patana are housed. They all seemed to suggest that POSCO
will bring complete ruin to these villages in spite of their being labeled as ‘Pro-POSCO’.
Praful Mohanti is the spokesperson for the community in the transit camp.
The displaced people in the transit camp are living under inhuman conditions. They have suffered
for the last four years in overcrowded, unhygienic living conditions with only Rs./-20 (50 cents) per
person per day for sustaining life. They said that their children are unable to attend school
and no medical facilities are available to them. Most people there were unemployed and
showed a keen interest in returning to their homes and previous lifestyles. The people in this transit camp are clear victims of the same State-Corporate nexus that is breaking up of communities in this area, and leading to loss of homes, lands, and livelihoods.
Credit: This photo essay was made possible with the generous help of the team from PUCL, Karnataka.