Land acquisition for Posco project halted 'temporarily'

"Land acquisition for the proposed project near will remain suspended for the time being," District Collector S K Mallick said Monday.

Paradip (Odisha): With land acquisition for the Rs 52,000 Posco steel project in Odisha's Jagatsinghpur district stalled since February 6 following protests, the administration has decided to keep it in abeyance 'temporarily' with the police forces withdrawn.

"Land acquisition for the proposed project near will remain suspended for the time being," District Collector S K Mallick said Monday.

"Police forces deployed in the area have been pulled out," he said.

"The stopping of land acquisition is only temporary and the process will resume soon," Additional District Magistrate (Paradip), Surjit Das said.

Mallick said, two platoons (about 60 policemen) would, however, continue to camp at Mangalachak on the outskirts of Gobindpur to provide protection to villagers.

The police would remain following an appeal by residents of Gobindpur, particularly those who gave land for the project, as they feared attack by anti-Posco supporters, he said.

The 12 platoons of police (over 360 personnel) deployed at places like Balitutha, Kujanga and Badagabapur have been withdrawn.

"Police deployment at Mangalachak will continue to avert a possible law and order problem," Jagatsinghpur Superintendent of Police, Satyabrat Bhoi said.

Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti leader Abhay Sahu said though he had ended his fast launched on February 5 yesterday, the dharna would continue as two platoons of police were still deployed outside Gobindpur.

"We will continue to protest till the forces are completely withdrawn. We don't have faith in this repressive and government," he said.

Land acquisition, which resumed on February 3 after a gap of over a year, was suspended from February six following clashes between anti-Posco activists and police.

School students who took part in the agitation returned to their classes at Dhinkia, Nuagaon, Gada Kujanga and Patna apparently after withdrawal of the hunger-strike by Sahu.

Meanwhile, social activist B D Sharma, some advocates from the Orissa High Court and journalists visited the dharna site during the day to express solidarity with the protestors.

Altogether 65 betel vine plantations were dismantled between February 3 and 5 at Gobindpur village under Dhinkia grampanchayat, considered the epi-centre of anti-Posco agitation, and compensation of Rs 1.08 crore paid to the people on the spot, Land Acquisition Officer Nrusingha Swain said.

Earlier, land acquisition for the mega project had been halted in December 2011 following violence during construction of a coastal road.