Sanjaya Jena / Bhubaneswar
She argues that the Rs 52,000-crore South Korean steel project has in the last few years only heightened the woes of the local villagers
Noted social worker and Narmada Bachao Andoaln leader Medha Patkar believes that the 12-million-tonne Posco-India project at Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district must be scrapped forthwith as it has brought enormous woes to the local people.
Ms Patkar, who was recently in Odisha capital Bhubaneswar to deliver Harichachadra Buxipatra Memorial lecture, argues that the Rs 52,000-crore South Korean steel project has in the last few years only heightened the plight of the local villagers. The people of three panchayats - Dhinkia, Gada-Kujanga and Nuagaon - have been subjected to unabated 'state repression, police atrocities and other hostilities.
"The police atrocities have violated the constitutional rights of people. It must stop immediately and action taken against the erring officials," she says.
Ms Patkar, who is also the national convener of National Alliance of Peoples' Movements (NAPM), is also equally surprised over the state government forcibly trying to impose its will on the people despite the gram sabha opposing the project and no formal memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the investment existing.
"Orissa has become one of the most favoured destinations seeking investments or rather naked loot of its rich mineral resources in the name of development causing severe misery and impoverishment to the people. The Posco project violates the Forest Rights Act and many other constitutional rights of people," she contends.
The renowned social activist's 's observation comes amidst reports that the state government has been deploying heavy armed police forces in Dhinkia area to neutralize resistance against construction of a eight km long coastal road that seeks to connect Paradip with the proposed project site.
Ms Patkar maintains that any project opposed by the local people must be stopped forthwith. "In a welfare country like India, neither the state government nor the state government should go against the will of the people. Any such attempt will be considered fascism," she observes.
Land acquisition across the country has created a serious situation of social unrest. Hence, the government must ban acquisition of agricultural land for non-agriculture purpose for at least 10 years, she demands.
Ms Patkar, while welcoming the new land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation Bill introduced in the Parliament, maintains that it is a 'watered down version of the draft Bill which was put out for public comments by the ministry of rural development.
She says provisions in the Bill aim at industrialization and urbanization and fail to recognize the rights of those already displaced in the name of development.
"The Bill does not address the issue of land alienation and hence would not bring any relief to indigenous people. The Bill will legitimize the profit motive of the private corporations," she observes, adding, the Bill if made Act will fuel unprecedented land acquisitions in the country leading to conflicts never seen before.
Ms Patkar has a clear stand on the Jan Lokpal Bill. "The Jan Lokpal Bill has set a lot of political churning in the country in the last six months. It is quite encouraging. A strong Lokpal Bill is only a tool to fight the larger corruption and make the governance structure more accountable and transparent," she points out.
The observations made by Ms Patkar have added strength to the people who have carrying out a relentless battle against the forcible land acquisition in Odisha. Besides, it has sent a warning across the political and bureaucratic classes that the movements against displacement are land acquisition cannot just be suppressed by use of force.