Protesters booked for detaining Posco employees


Jagatsinghpur (Orissa) : Police Saturday registered a criminal case against a group of villagers for wrongfully detaining for hours four employees of South Korean steel major Posco as part of their protests against the firm's plans to set up a plant in Orissa.

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Police registered the case against Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti (Posco Protest Agitation Committee) president Abhaya Sahoo and others for rioting, abducting and for wrongful detention of the company's officials in Patana Village, a senior Jagatsinghpur district police official told IANS.

Four local employees of the steel major were taken hostage Friday by the activists of the committee, which is campaigning against Posco's steel plant.

While two of them, a woman and the driver of the vehicle in which they had gone to visit the village, were released immediately, the activists had confined Pranab Das, a public relation officer, and Debesh Swain, a senior executive, for over 10 hours.

Swain and Das were released early Saturday after they gave an undertaking in writing that they will never come to the area again.

The driver of the vehicle, Amzad Khan, lodged a complaint with the local police Saturday. He alleged that the activists led by Sahoo ransacked his car and kidnapped the officials.

Based on his complaint, police registered the case against Sahu and his supporters under Sections 365, 395 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), district police chief Y.K. Jethwa told IANS.

"We are going to take strong action against unruly elements who are creating violence and terror in Posco-affected area," he said.

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.

The firm intends to invest $12 billion for the plant – the largest foreign direct investment in India.

However, 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 have been protesting saying the project 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.