Paradip (Odisha: In its bid to complete land acquisition for the proposed Posco project near here by first week of July, the Odisha government Friday resumed land acquisition amidst stiff opposition from villagers who alleged use of force to demolish their betel vines.
"We have to acquire another 700 acre of land from Gobindpur village for the Rs 52,000 crore project. This is the last phase of land acquisition exercise," Jagatsinghpur district collector S K Mallick told reporters.
Stating that the district administration of Jagatsinghpur along with the state-owned Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) had been undertaking land acquisition for Posco project, Mallick said they acquired certain amount of land today by demolishing 18 betel vines.
An amount of Rs 36 lakh has been given to affected farmers as compensation, he said.
Mallick, however, rejected the allegation of use of force to acquire land at the proposed plant site of the South Korean steel major here. "Many of the 19 betel vine owners have given their consent to take their land," Mallick said.
The district collector said the villagers had raised betel vines on government land and they were evicted today after paying compensation. "The land acquisition activities will continue tomorrow," he said.
Jagatsinghpur SP Satyabrata Bhoi, who was present during the land acquisition site along with 6 platoons (180 personnel) of force, however, admitted that the police chased away certain protesters who opposed demolition activities.
"There has been no lathi charge at the site. Police personnel have chased away certain people. We have maintained maximum restrain while dealing with women protesters," Bhoi said.
The villagers, on the other hand, claimed that police resorted to lathi charge as owners of the betel vines opposed demolition of their betel orchid. "I am a strong opponent of Posco project. They demolished my betel vine without my consent," alleged Hiramani Rout.
"The policemen beat up elder persons, women and children who opposed betel vine demolition. They acquired land without consent of the farmers. How can Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik now say that land acquisition is being done in a peaceful manner," asked Prakash Jena, a former member of Dhinkia gram Panchayat Samiti.
Jena, also a member of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), the CPI-backed agrarian body, said the state government earlier took their president Abhay Sahu into custody in order to use force for acquiring land.
"Though some of the protesters attempted suicide by consuming poison at the land acquisition spot, police took them into custody for some hours," said Tapan Mohanty, a resident of Gobindpur village.
The state government have so far demolished about 350 betel vines in the proposed plant site villages and acquired about 2,100 acre of land for Posco project, sources said adding that the steel major required 2,700 acre of land to start construction of its 8 MTPA steel mill in first phase.