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Press Release- #India -1500 villagers on indefinite fast in Odisha against State sponsored private militia #Posco

Sandeep Kumar Pattnaik
On 3rd April 2013, around 1500 villagers, including women and children, joined the indefinite protest in the Gobindapur village where the armed police forces camping. They have decided that they will continue the protest day and night with the demand for unconditional withdrawal of the armed police camps from the village. Leaders from different political parties like All Indian National Congress, Communist Party of India, ( Marxist), CPI-ML, CPI-ML( Liberation), CPI-ML ( ND), SUCI ( C), Forward Block, Samajvadi Party, Rastriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal ( U ) Aam Admi Party, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Samajvadi Jan Parishad, Odisha Jan Morcha, Republican Party of along with a few progressive organizations and individuals of eminence addressed the meeting on Wednesday, held near the police camp at Gobindapur.
We are apprehending that the would resume forceful acquisition of our land after the state assembly session ends on April 6, 2013.

As you know, in march first week, three of our villagers Tarun mandal, Manas Jena, Narahari Sahoo were killed when bombs were hurled at them by the project supporters and earlier Tarun’s elder brother Tapan alias Dula Mandal was killed in 2008. The lives of the wives and children of the deceased have been shattered. They are living an life of fear and uncertainty as and they do not know what the future holds for them. Pravati Mandal (26), wife of late Tarun Mandal of Gobindapur is left alone to take care of their two-year-old daughter. Pravati is now relying on the food supplied by our villagers. Jharana Jena (28), wife of late Manas Jena, a betel vine farmer of Gobindapur, faces not only grave financial difficulties but also the challenge on how to save their betel vines and lands from being acquired for the steel mill.

The police instead of taking action against the killers of the three persons are trying to arrest our people and have clamped false cases against us.

We will hold a joint demonstration of all political parties in on 12th April to oppose POSCO; we call upon our friends and sympathizers .

On March 26, in a major development, likeminded political forces cutting across party line came together and organized a massive demonstration program in the capital city of Bhubaneswar demanding full stop to ongoing police repression and violence in proposed project areas of Company in Dhinkia GP of Jagasingpur district. They also demanded full stop to forcible land acquisition and withdrawal of the project from the area. They met the new Governor Sri Senayangba Chubatoshi Jamir at Raj Bhawan with a list of demands. Attaching below the memorandum to Governor of for your information. ( Annex -1)

Recently, two human rights defenders as a part of Advocacy mission team visited to South Korea. Please find below the press release for your information ( Annex- 2).

Please find herewith a video statement of Debendra , one of the PPSS activist on the recent human rights violation by the State government. We are expressing our gratitude to the Video Voulnteer for preparing this video. This is the link of the video http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL60GAnFL6tn01CNcvnMkV6elXc3IZhjEJ

Kindly forward this mail widely.

Hoping for Solidarity.

Prashant Paikaray

Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.

Mobile no – 09437571547

E- mail- [email protected]

Annex -1
To
His Excellency Senayangba Chubatoshi Jamir
Hon’ble Governer of Odisha,
Raj Bhawan, Bhubaneswar March 26, 2013

Sub: Memorandum submitted by POSCO Pratirodha Solidarity Samiti

Respected Rajyapalji,
We the representatives of Indian National Congress, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India( Marxist), CPI-ML, CPI-ML( Liberation), CPI-ML ( ND), SUCI ( C), Forward Block, Samajvadi Party, Rastriya , ( U ) Aam Admi Party, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Samajvadi Jan Parishad,Odisha Jan Morcha, Republican Party of India along with the undersigned organizations and individuals crave your kind indulgence on the continued police atrocities and prolonged repression on the villagers in the Dhinkia and Baligotha of Jagatsinghpur District by the State Government machinery and private militia to protect the interest of POSCO India Private Ltd., an Indian subsidiary of Korean conglomerate POSCO. The constitution of India is facing the worst of its crisis in this region as the elected government of the state is subverting democracy and rights guaranteed by the constitution of India just to sub serve the interests of a private multinational company who has come here just for maximizing its profit. Ignoring established laws and procedures and with total disregards to the facts that the company’s environmental clearance has been stayed by National Green Tribunal, Mining case is still pending in the Apex Court and water availability along with port clearance are yet to be decided, the state government is using all its means to forcibly acquire the rich and fertile agricultural land despite strong resistance by the locals who have so far lost four lives.
Though the ways, means and methods of industrialization in the state has remained an issue of contention and contestations which we don’t want right now to apprise you with but we feel that there is no justification for setting up Steel Plant in the fertile agricultural land where rural economy has prospered with multi crop farming and other economic activities like fisheries and betel leaf plantation. The State Administration has not been able to implement the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 for the villagers who are living in those areas for ages, and despite having documentary evidence in favour of existence of tribal’s and other traditional Forest Dwellers. The official Gram Sabha of Dhinkia in the presence of government officials has voted against transfer of forest land for the company on October 18, 2012 and prior to that twice.
But such a democratic move was not respected and rather was responded to with increased violence in partnership with private militia. And as a result of this violence and deaths happening since February 3, 2013 which reached a culmination point on March 2, 2013 when 3 people got killed in a bomb explosion. The armed police have made life miserable for the common villagers and lots of false cases have been files against people forcing them not to move out. The threat of State and company sponsored violence looms large over hundreds of farmer who are protecting their life and livelihood in the midst of hundreds of policemen. We seek your urgent benign intervention. In the light of the aforesaid facts and circumstances we demand the followings before you to instruct the state Government.
Our Appeal:
1. Please ask the state government to stop forcible land acquisition for POSCO project in the Govindapur area of Jagatsinghpur district.
2. Please ask for withdrawal of armed police deployed in Dhinkia Gram Panchayat area and to take positive and proactive measures to ensure peace and normalcy in that village and not to take the pretext of using police to defend the POSCO ‘supporters’ who are being nurtured by the company.
3. All rights violations must stop and your good office may order impartial investigation of all violations done so far which will enlighten you about the magnitude of the problem.
4. Land Pattas should be issued in favor of the people those who have been possessed the government land since generation’s which they are entitled to at least under FRA 2006 by recognizing Rights of the Forest Dwellers and Tribals as per the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
5. If the government can’t honor, at least it should not dishonor and do things to harm a democratic peaceful resistance against displacing from life and livelihood resources.

With deep democratic regards

Annex-2

Press Release:

POSCO Undermines Indian Democracy, Democratic Dissent, Rights of Citizens and Justice- All that Guaranteed by Indian Constitution & International Laws

‘Anywhere in the world if democracy exists, they must prevent POSCO-like corporation from going ahead with its assault on the democratic values, principles, laws and rights of another sovereign country even if the host country’s political, bureaucratic and media is seen to be patronizing the company and facilitating its entry in one or the other pretext.’(A senior Journalist in Odisha)

Despite the fact that Indian citizens of the state of Odisha in the lowest unit of their democracy-the Gram Sabha rejecting the proposal of POSCO to establish a steel plant at the cost of their prime agricultural land, rich betel vines and fishery resources which they did thrice by taking majority resolutions in a body sanctioned and respected by Indian Constitution, the company has shown only its ‘determination’ to go ahead with the project at a huge cost to the rights of Indian citizens and by causing untold miseries for the democratic protesters. The Gram Sabhas (a constitutionally recognized body of all citizens relating to the villages belonging to a Panchayat – Local Self-Governing Unit) have rejected three times (March, 2008; February, 2010 & October, 2012) the POSCO project in their villages. For the last seven years they have been peacefully resisting POSCO, in-spite of all kinds of intimidations and harassments by the Indian government and POSCO followers.

Why do Affected People reject POSCO?

Displacements: 4004 acres of land earmarked for the POSCO’s plant project is going to evict an estimated 22,000 people and indirectly disrupt the livelihoods of another 30,000 people, just in Jagatsingphur District. People will lose their houses, homestead and agricultural lands, common property resources and all sustainable sources of livelihoods.

Loss of Sustainable Livelihoods Systems – Degradation of the Standard of Living for Local People: 22,000 people depending on agriculture, fishing, and forestry since generations will directly loss their traditional and sustainable sources of livelihoods and jobs. Small-holding betel vine cultivation provides a steady, sustainable income for people living in the affected area, amounting in some cases to over three times the average Indian income while cultivating land plots less than a tenth the size of an acre.

An additional 30,000 small scale fisherman also stand to lose their source of livelihood. It is this way of life that people resisting the project are defending and they assert that POSCO-India can never adequately compensate them for it. There is little possibility the purported job creation will benefit the local residents, as they do not have the skills needed to work for a steel plant and offspring industries that is supposed to be created. They might be forced to take low paid, insecure and easily replaceable jobs such as cleaning, manual luggage carriers and the like.

Villagers are anticipating that POSCO’s project will destroy a peaceful and sustainable way of life that has been passed down from generation to generation, thereby threatening the livelihoods of local residents and the future of their children. While the project would destroy whole communities and local economies, should this forced eviction proceed it will amount to grave violations of several fundamental human rights, including those related to housing, food, water, health and work. Here it does not include twenty thousand indigenous people who will lose livelihoods due to the proposed mining project in Sundhargarh district ( approx 300 km away from proposed steel plant area at Jagatsinghpur)..

Noteworthy to mention that 42 families who have already moved to POSCO-India’s transit camp demonstrate how the evicted people are leading a wretched life over there without any work, poor housings, moving from economic prosperity into poverty, removal from their arable land has cut them off from their previous means of economic independence, leaving them dependent on a dole-like cash payment of 20 rupees (405 South Korean Won) per day.

Environmental Impacts: The project is going to have negative impacts on the environment and local biodiversity. Construction of the port is predicted to destroy the breeding ground of the endangered Olive Ridley turtle, and remove sand dunes that are a natural barrier against regular cyclones – like the one in 1999 that caused the death of 15,000 people. Local people protected by this natural barrier were spared the worst of the category 5 storm that destroyed other communities. POSCO-India plans to remove these dunes to build their port.

Disastrous Impact on Water sources: The POSCO plant will extract huge quantity of water from a rain-fed river already falling short from meeting the domestic and agricultural needs of local people and will affect 30000 farmers in the district. The disposal of waste waters from the plant will destroy the natural water outlets, canals, sea and affect fishermen and farmers.

Crackdown on people resisting forcible eviction: For the past seven years, POSCO has been morally complicit in state-sanctioned attacks and acts of repression by the Government of Odisha to suppress peaceful demonstrations and opposition against the company’s proposed project. Till now it has claimed five lives as a result of POSCO operations and POSCO was never found condemning any of such gruesome incidents. Rather, it shows collaborations of POSCO with the acts of government and private musclemen to terrorise people.

On March 2nd, 2013, at 6.30pm, a bomb killed 3 local community members, Manas Jena, Nabanu Mandal and Narahari Sahoo, and seriously wounded another, Laxman Paramanik. This is part of a long-running pattern of violence used to threaten and harm local people. For example, in 2008 Dula Mandal, another local person resisting the project was also killed. In 2010 police opened fire on locals resisting the project, causing a widespread public outcry. These people have been violently targeted because they are part of the community of local people resisting the progress of the POSCO-India project in defense of their livelihoods, and access to land and natural resources.

The South Korea’s Ambassador Kim Joong Keun visited Odisha on 6th march 2013. When people in the proposed POSCO project site are mourning the killing of 3 activists of the movement who were killed ina bomb attack on March 2, the Ambassador did not say anything to express his grief. He was obsessed with the progress of POSCO project.

From February 2013 onwards there is continuous deployment of five platoons of police at Govindpur village which has made villagers life miserable. The presence of police is only encouraging the criminal elements to unleash a region of terror in the proposed POSCO area. The villagers are in a constant fear that at any point of time the armed police forces resume the operation and take away their land.

Police Cases against Resisting Villagers – Deliberate Harassment of Local People: To date, the Odisha State Government has registered more than 230 criminal cases against the villagers and issued 1,500 warrants, 340 of which are women. Two individuals, who are under trial prisoners, remain incarcerated. Mostly the complainants are government officials, POSCO staffs and followers. The community leaders have been repeatedly jailed as a result of defending their human rights.

Seven Years’ Encirclement of Resisting Villagers – Unable to access medical services and children’s Education: Threats, arrests, tortures, harassment by police and POSCO followers, deployment of huge security forces, open challenges by mercenaries have forced the villagers not to cross their village boundary and kept aloof from the rest of the world as if in an open prison. People trying to come outside their village boundary for medical treatment, marketing or for any other urgent purposes are being abused or arrested on their way. Any complaint of victims of abuse or arbitrary arrest is not entertained in local police station. Sick women, children and others are not able to access medical treatment since years together. Children are not able to attend educational institutions outside their villages. At least 14 women are suffering for years with severe gynecological disorders that need surgery. In January this year eighteen police platoons surrounded the area where communities are resisting the project and threatened to forcible enter the village and evict them. On this occasion the authorities did force themselves into the village and destroyed the local people’s primary means of livelihood, their betel vines that they rely on for the bulk of their income. Furthermore, the intimidation methods extend also to legal persecution.

Issues of Violation of Indian Laws with the POSCO-India project: According to the Forest Rights Act (2006) the consent of local people – as expressed during official community gatherings, known as a Gram Sabha – is required for this project to proceed. In this case local communities have officially voiced their rejection of the project in three legally binding community resolutions.

The original 2005 MoU for the project has expired, and on March 30, 2012, India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered a review of the 2011 final environmental clearance for the project, following which the Ministry of Environment and Forests has withdrawn this approval. Furthermore, the captive port construction as planned would violate Indian coastal development regulations.

Many of these violations and irregularities were pointed out in the Majority Committee Report, of a review committee that was set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests , Government of India in 2010. There have been deficiencies in the manner in which the forest diversion for the project was approved. For instance, the decision was based solely on aerial inspection and telephonic verification. The first set of environment clearances granted in 2007 have also expired in May and July 2012. Despite all this, POSCO-India continues to initiate entry into the project area and carry out felling of trees as part of continuing the project construction in the absence of requisite legal approvals, which are mandatory prior to initiating any construction works.

Corrupting and Weakening Democratic Institutions and Functions in India: POSCO – India works an active collaborator with the forces that engaged in corruption, bribery within the administration and weakening democracy. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has unearthed a land scam in Odisha, where the state government acquired land for industrial houses like POSCO by reportedly misusing existing provisions of the Land Acquisition Act. Media people are lured not to write any stories against POSCO.

Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights:

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the ‘Guiding Principels’), requires that all business enterprises respect human rights. Specifically, this means that businesses are required to ‘avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved’. The responsibility of business enterprises to ‘respect human rights applies to all enterprises regardless of their size, sector, operational context, ownership and structure’.

The Guiding Principles require that all businesses ‘identify and assess any actual or potential adverse human rights impacts with which they may be involved either through their own activities or as a result of their business relationships’. In order to execute this duty, the investor relationship that your company has with the POSCO Corporation requires that you apply whatever leverage you have to ensure POSCO management respects the human rights of the people affected by their project in Odisha.

OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises: All companies based in states that are members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), are obliged to uphold the ‘Guidelines for Multi-National Enterprises’ (the ‘OECD Guidelines’). Chapter IV of the OECD Guidelines requires companies to “respect human rights, which means they should avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved”. The Guidelines are applicable to financial institutions and to investors, including minority shareholders.

Another provision of the OECD Guidelines requires that companies engage with relevant stakeholders in order to provide meaningful opportunities for their views to be taken into account in relation to planning and decision making for projects, or other activities that may significantly impact local communities. In this case, the POSCO Corporation should heed the voice of local communities as expressed in accordance with the Forest Rights Act during Gram Sabhas, which have three times (March, 2008; February, 2010 & October 2012) reiterated the local communities’ demand that the project not proceed.

UN Global Compact
The United Nations Global Compact also calls on companies to respect international human rights standards and avoid complicity in human rights abuses. In May 2012, POSCO CEO, Mr. Joon-Yang Chung, wrote a letter to UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon. He stated that ‘POSCO supports the ten principles of the Global Compact with respect to human rights’ and ‘with this communication, we express our intent to advance those principles within our sphere of influence’. Evidence from the area impacted by POSCO’s project in Odisha makes a mockery of this promise.

POSCO should honor this commitment to United Nations Guidelines and uphold human rights in general and withdraw its Odisha project in particular as it undermines human rights of local people, the right to democratic dissent and their natural rights to pursue livelihood options of their choice. No project should be imposed on an unwilling population by conniving with coercive state machinery.

Chandranath Dani, Human Rights Advocate
Email: [email protected]

 

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