WSCF Asia-Pacific Appeal for Solidarity

March 14th, 2013 1:34 pm

This Solidarity Appeal was prepared by the WSCF Asia-Pacific Human Rights, Justice and Peace Committee. It calls all members of Student Christian Movements to lobby on behalf of people who are harmed and threatened.

Support the just cause of villagers in Odisha, India against POSCO steel project

The peoples’ struggle in Orissa, India against the Korean Steel giant, the Pohang Steel Company (POSCO) is entering a new face of protest.

On February 3rd 2013,State Police and POSCO goons attacked villagers who have been struggling for the past seven years to protect their land and livelihood. The attack happened at around 4AM on Feb. 3rd. As reported, twelve platoons of police forcefully entered the villages of Dhinkia and Govindpur to take over forest land. These villages have been at the centre of a seven year long resistance movement against POSCO which seeks to build a port and a steel plant in Jagatsinghpur District. On entering the village, police targeted women and children first. At least 6 women, children and elderly people were seriously injured; 50 people were arbitrarily detained and one arrested.

Furthermore, from the 5th February onwards, police and Indian government officials have initiated forcible land acquisition procedures in the villages opposed to the proposed project.

Background Information
Since 2005, when POSCO started its project in India (so far the largest Foreign Direct Investment in India) the question of human rights violations and forest rights raised by the people have not yet been addressed by the federal and the state governments.

The proposed steel plant is expected to affect seven villages in three Gram panchayats, namely Dhinkia, Nuagaon & Gadakujang, and will allow POSCO to extract 600 million tons of iron ore over the next 30 years. Census reports issued by the Government and by POSCO claim that about 400 families will be displaced by the project. According to figures from 2001, the three panchayats (villages) have 3,350 households, which adds up to 22,000 people who will be displaced. This discrepancy is partly due to anomalies in Government records which recognize only 438 acres out of 4000 acres as being privately owned, whilst in reality, most of the land has been under betel, cashew and other cultivation by adivasi (indigenous) communities for several generations. This is fertile land, and an average family involved in cashew farming earns about Rs. 20,000 ($500) per season. About 50% of the families are also involved in pisciculture (mostly prawns), for which the daily earnings per family can range between Rs. 100-5000 ($2.50-$125). In addition, there are many landless families that depend on ancillary employment like making baskets for packaging Paan leaves grown in the area.

Around 4000 families who will be affected by the project do not want their home and livelihood sources to be ceded for construction of the integrated steel plant. The Gram Sabhas – the assembly of elders in the village/Panchayat – of the concerned villages have time and again reiterated their opposition to any acquisition of their land as the people will lose forest land, water bodies and rice-paddies in the area, which are important sources of livelihood.

There is evidence of the land acquisition being unconstitutional as it violates the Forest Rights Act 2006 which states that no forest land can be diverted without the informed consent of the gram sabha (village council).

Even the National Green Tribunal has suspended the environmental clearance given to the project. The actions of the government of Odisha with the support of the police and POSCO clearly violate several international human rights treaties, which have been ratified by India.

Six years ago, 52 families who were forcefully evicted from Dhinkia Village now live in make shift shelters built by POSCO. What was meant to be a transit camp is now their permanent residence. Some of them are given a dole of Rs.20/- per day, which is insufficient to meet even basic needs.

SAMPLE LETTER

(Please Address separately the different agencies and government officials listed below.)

Shri. Naveen Patnaik
Chief Minister, Orissa

At- Naveen Nivas, Aerodrome Road, P.O.-Bhubaneswar
Dist.-Khurda, Pin-751001 (Orissa)

Dear Sri Patnaik,

Greetings!

We write to express our utmost concern and condemnation of the violence unleashed by the police together with POSCO private security on February 3, 2013 against the villagers who were conducting a peaceful protest over the land-grabbing of POSCO for its industrial plants construction. Moreover, most of those hurt were women, children and elderly and most men villagers were threatened and arrested.

We call on the government to hold accountable the police forces and private security who were involved in violence during the human-chain protest of the villagers.

It should be noted that time and again the villagers stood for their right to livelihood, land and homes in those areas being forcibly acquired by the POSCO management thru its private goons and state police. The multi-million POSCO project planned on the vastness of 4, 004 acres of land will displace at least 4000 families in around seven villages in Jagatsinghpur District, Odisha Orissa.

The recent October 2012 Assembly of Villagers once again united to vote against the POSCO project. This cemented the defiant struggle of the farmers and adivasis against the forcible displacement and possible exploitation of the people’s resources and resonates the peoples call for the cancellation of the POSCO project.

We support the united and peaceful struggle of the villagers in defense of their land, livelihood and life.

We further call on the state government under Shri. Naveen Patnaik and the central government of India to stop the violent attacks on the villagers and heed the just demand for the cancellation of the POSCO project.

We hope that the Orissa and Indian central governments will adhere to international human rights norms, laws and conventions to which it is signatory.

We greatly your attention to this letter.

Sincerely,

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO

1. Shri. Naveen Patnaik

Chief Minister, Orissa

At- Naveen Nivas, Aerodrome Road, P.O.-Bhubaneswar
Dist.-Khurda, Pin-751001 (Orissa)
Fax: +91-67-4253-5100
E Mail: 

2. Debadutta Singh

Superintendent of Police

Email:   (no fax number available)

3. Chairperson

National Human Rights Commission of India

Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi 110 001

Fax: +91-11-2334-0016

Email: 

4. Dr Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister of India

South Block, Raisana Hill
New Delhi 110011
INDIA

Fax:  +91-11-2301-9454 /6857/5603
Email: pmosb@pmo.nic.in

5.  S.K. Mallick

District  Collector, Jagatsinghpur

Fax: +91-67-2422-0299

6. Mrs. Margaret Sekaggya

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Situation of Human Rights Defenders

Email:

FAX: +41(0) 22.917.90.06

7. Mr. Maina Kiai

UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

Palais des Nations

CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
Fax : + 41 22 917 9006
Email : 

 

PREPARED BY THE WORLD STUDENT CHRISTIAN FEDERATION ASIA PACIFIC (HUMAN RIGHTS, JUSTICE AND PEACE COMMITTEE).

PLEASE A COPY OF YOUR LETTER TO US.

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