“Residents are worried of further bloodshed if the POSCO Odisha [formerly known as Orissa] project continues”
By Lee Wan, staff reporter
On March 22, two men from India stood holding a protest in front of the firmly closed doors of the POSCO center. “Shareholders of POSCO, please hear us out on what happened in Odisha”, they said. On this day, a general shareholders’ meeting was taking place inside the closed office.
Human rights activist Direhdra Panda and human rights lawyer Chandranath Dani described the situation in Odisha by saying, “The police are currently blockading three villages that are against the Indian government’s forced land expropriation for the POSCO Odisha steel factory”. Dani said, “The residents of these villages aren’t able to leave their houses because the police are issuing arrest warrants to everyone who opposes the construction”.
The Odisha Project started in 2005 when POSCO and the Odisha government signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to construct a 120 million ton steelworks factory at a cost of 12 trillion won (about US$1 billion). Since then, relocating the residents who live on the land that is slated to be used for the factory has been a problem.
The securing of land for construction has also been difficult. On Mar. 2, a bomb exploded in the house of a resident who had opposed the factory, killing three and injuring two. In order to gain control of the local iron ore mines and an increased presence in the growing Indian market, POSCO has no plans to abandon the project.
Panda said, “The police are pulling up Betel plants, which the residents rely on for their living. The police have violated the villagers’ human rights with violence.”
Panda and Dani, who first visited Korea on March 20 during a spell of cold weather, will meet with South Korean civic groups and Jeon Soon-ok, a Democratic United Party lawmaker, to provide information about the reality of Odisha. They return to India on the 25th. Dani said, “The Norwegian liaison office for ‘OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises’ proposed that an international investigation group be created to investigate the violence taking place in Odisha. I hope POSCO, a multinational corporation, accepts this proposal”.
The OECD guidelines were created to reinforce the social responsibilities of multinational enterprises, and are enforced by liaison offices in each country. Because the Norwegian public officials’ pension fund currently owns POSCO stocks, Norwegian civic groups are aware of the situation and have submitted a petition.
Heavily dressed against Korea’s cold, Panda added, “The Indian media is viewing the issue from the perspective of the government and the corporation. The residents of Odisha have been cultivating crops on this land for many generations. Even if they receive better compensation, they do not wish to leave”.
Translated by Kim Kyung-min, Hankyoreh English intern
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