Land acquisition for Posco halted, police withdrawn
Paradip (Odisha): The land acquisition for Posco's mega project in Jagatsinghpur district came to a halt on the fourth day on Wednesday and the police force was withdrawn following demands from school children and women who joined the protests.
"The government decided to stop the land acquisition for the day. The forces are being withdrawn," District Collector S K Mallick said.
"We have agreed," he said, adding that the government took the decision after holding talks with the protestors who were joined by school children and women demanding withdrawal of the police.
The district collector said, however, that the police might remain at Gobindpur village if those who gave their land felt a threat to their lives.
The protestors demanded action against a government land acquisition officer who was caught on camera beating up people and chasing away children, he said.
He would consult senior government officials before taking any decision on resumption of land acquisition work, he said.
He said that 14 betel vine plantations were acquired for which a compensation of Rs 26 lakh was paid.
The state government had resumed land acquisition work on Sunday after keeping it suspended for over one year.
Meanwhile, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti president
Abhay Sahu, who is on a hunger-strike since yesterday demanding withdrawal of the police, said that the agitation would continue.
"Announcement of force withdrawal could be the government's new strategy to foil the agitation," he said.
Sahu also claimed that the school children who joined the protests did so at the behest of their parents and had not been asked to join.
The CPI-backed PPSS has been opposing the Rs 52,000 crore Posco project since the South Korean steel major signed MoU with the state government on June 21, 2005.
Schools in Dhinikia, Patana and Gobindpur villages were empty as the children joined the stir before the arrival of CPI National Secretary D Raja.
The children went in a procession shouting anti-government and anti-Posco slogans from Patana village to Gobindpur-Mangala Chhak, where about 300 police personnel were camping since Sunday.
Besides the children, a large number of women also joined the protests.
"We are ready to sacrifice our lives for protection of our land and homes," PPSS women's wing chief Manorama Khatua said.
Superintendent of Police Satyabrata Bhoi directly accused the PPSS president of instigating the villagers. "The police have been maintaining maximum restraint and not responding to provocation from protestors. There is absolutely no violence."
The police also accused the PPSS of using the schoolchildren as a human shield.