Bhubaneswar : The employees of South Korean steel major Posco, who were taken hostage by villagers protesting the construction of a steel plant in Orissa, were released early Saturday after they gave in writing that they would not enter the region again.
"We released them at about 1.45 a.m. Saturday after the officials – Pranab Das, a public relation officer of the firm and Debesh Swain, a senior executive – gave in writing that they will never come to the area again," said Abhaya Sahu, president of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), which is campaigning against POSCO's steel plant.
At least four officials, including a driver and a woman employee, of the steel major had gone to Nuagaon village in Jagatsinghpur district Friday to talk to villagers about land acquisition for a $12 billion steel plant in the area.
However, hundreds of villagers opposed to the project obstructed them, damaged their vehicle and took them hostage. The driver and the woman employee were released immediately while the other two were taken away to Patana village, some 100 km from here, and held hostage for over 10 hours.
"A top official of the company also called me and assured that they will not send any of its officials to the region where people are opposing the proposed project," Sahu told IANS.
Posco, one of the world's biggest steel makers, signed a deal with the state government in June 2005 to set up the plant near the port town of Paradeep in the coastal district of Jagatsinghpur by 2016.
There has been no significant progress on the project since then due to local opposition.
Over 20,000 people from around 15 nearby villages including Dhinkia, Gada Kujanga and Nuagaon are protesting the project saying it will displace them and ruin their betel leaf farming.
Posco says the plant would affect only 500 families but it would create thousands of jobs.