Our apology for the delay in updating you on the latest development regarding appropriation of our land which should have been returned to us after POSCO withdrew from the project (Please recall our last update). The state government run by Mr. Nabin Pattnaik seems to be in no mood to hand over the 2900 acres of fertile agricultural land to the affected people of our villages. Rather the government has declared that the entire area will be handed over to ruthless Indian steel major Jindal Steel of the Sajan Jindal Group. The purpose is same-to set up its steel plant of 10 million tone capacity. All these are happening without free prior informed consent of our people and Gram Sabhas, and without following statutory legal procedures. The corporate forces have their clout over government of India as well the state government, so permission for any project is not a problem for them.

The PPSS strongly condemns these unjust and illegal actions of both the Nabin Patnaik government and the Narendra Modi government.

As you were aware the state-owned Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) government had forcibly acquired 2,700 acres of land for the now abandoned POSCO project. After POSCO announced withdrawal of its project, the government cancelled land allotment to POSCO and the land was saved in the so called land bank of the state government and the government did not feel it necessary to consult people over the fate of the land after POSCO’s withdrawal. This speaks volumes about the state of grass root democracy in India , more particularly the status of constitutional safeguards and empowering acts.

As per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR) of 2013 “Land acquired and possession taken over but not utilized within a period of five years from the date of possession shall in all cases revert back to the original land owner. But the government of Odisha made it exactly opposite. As per Odisha government’s revised policy for land acquisition notified on February 7, 2015, “Land acquired and possession taken over but not utilized within a period of five years from the date of possession shall in all cases revert back to the state and be deposited in the Land Bank automatically.”

With respect to forest land the Forest Rights Act recognizes and vests legal rights of local communities over forest land and community forest resources. As you know that the residents of Nuagaon, Dhinkia and Gobindpur villages have submitted applications to the local authorities to claim their land and forest rights, but these claims have not been processed since 2011. It is to be noted that three different official committees i.e., the Saxena Committee, the POSCO Enquiry Committee and the FAC – found that the Forest Rights Act, 2006 had been violated in the proposed POSCO area. Besides, on several occasions in the past, the Gram Sabhas of the area have passed majority resolutions against any handover of their lands and community forest resources.
The government must respect the unanimous resolution passed by over 2,000 people at a Gram Sabha held in October 2012 that the land used for betel cultivation was under the rights provided to the Gram Sabha under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. The state government is obligated to fulfill the statutory legal requirement of ensuring recognition and vesting of forest rights and consent over these lands after exit of POSCO, otherwise the government will be committing further a criminal offence under the FRA, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the SC/ST prevention of atrocities Act 1989 and the amendments done in 2016. Thus under the Forest Rights Act of 2006, transfer of people’s land to Jindal is illegal.

The people whose land and beetle vines have been forcibly destroyed and acquired by the government for POSCO, they lost their livelihood sources and now reduced to daily wagers. Most of these families have farmed beetle leaves for generations, which they sell to earn a livelihood. They have no other employable skills. Hence we had given a call and are determined to re-occupy these lands and reconstruct our vineyards.

In July 2017, our villagers have filed a petition with the Kolkata bench of the National Green Tribunal. It’s has been asserted that the Odisha government cannot put this forest land into the land bank. According to the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, the government is required to get forest ‘clearance’ or approval from the central environment ministry to use forest land for a non-forest
purpose. However, there is no provision to obtain forest clearance for a ‘land bank’ under the Act. The petition adds that under the Forest Rights Act of 2006, the government cannot change the use of forest land without recognizing the land and forest rights of people living or dependent on it for generations.

Our Demand

* Urgently process individual and community forest rights claims on land it had taken over for a POSCO project instead of transferring the land to a land bank.

* Declare that there is no provision under law or under any act which provides for land acquisition for any land bank for any purpose. Thus the land must return to the original inhabitants as per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR) of 2013

* Make it mandatory to consult Gram Sabhas as and when a project is formulated/abandoned or withdrawn to decide over the land intended to be acquired or already acquired after using wrongful means.

* Withdraw all false and fabricated cases on our villagers.

Hoping for your continues support and solidarity.

Kindly circulate this mail widely

In Solidarity,
Prashant Paikray
Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS)
Cell No- 91 + 9437571547