Anti-POSCO activists detain government officials for hours


Jagatsinghpur (Orissa) : Protesting South Korean steel major POSCO's proposed plant in Orissa, activists Monday detained seven state government officials including an engineer for four hours in Jagatsinghpur district.

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An official team led by junior engineer Tapan Mohanty of the district irrigation department had gone to conduct a routine survey on sea erosion at the Jatadhari river mouth, 140 km from state capital Bhubaneswar.

The South Korean steel company wants to build a port at the river mouth.

Believing that the survey was related to the POSCO plan, the activists took them hostage and brought them to Dhinkia village, district police chief Y.K. Jethwa told IANS.

They released the officials four hours later after realising that the survey was not linked to the proposed port, he said.

The officials had not lodged any police complaint, Jethwa said.

POSCO, one of the world's biggest steel-makers, signed a deal with the Orissa government in June 2005 to set up a steel plant near Paradeep by 2016 with an investment of $12 billion – the biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country so far.

Over 20,000 people from around 15 nearby villages, including Dhinkia, Gada Kujanga and Nuagaon are protesting the project, saying it will not only displace them, but also ruin their betel leaf farming, their source of livelihood.

Villagers have erected at least nine wooden gates in the Dhinikia and Gada Kujang panchayats to prevent government and company officials from entering these areas.

It was the third time the protesting villagers took officials hostage.

On May 16, they had detained two POSCO officials for two hours at Nuagaon and released them only after they promised not to visit the village again.

Hundreds of protesters had on May 11 held two company officials hostage for over 10 hours at Patana village, some 100 km from state capital Bhubaneswar.

They were released after a written undertaking that they will not enter the village again.

POSCO says the plant would affect only 500 families, but help create thousands of jobs. But villagers say more families would be uprooted by the project.