Police keep Posco officials away from steel plant site


Bhubaneswar : The police are stopping officials of Posco-India, a subsidiary of South Korea’s Pohang Iron and Steel Co, from entering the site of the $12-billion steel plant the company proposes to build in Orissa.

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The police are not allowing company officials to enter the villages that fall under the Dhinkia, Gadakujanga and Nuagaon panchayats, Posco-India spokesperson Sasanka Patnaik told IANS.

“We are stopping them for their safety,” district assistant superintendent of police Rabinarayan Patra said.

Anti-Posco activists had abducted four company officials led by the South Korean firm’s senior general manager K.S. Choi Oct 13 when they had gone to the area for a survey.

The officials were released after a local police officer — on behalf of the district administration — gave protestors a written assurance that Posco officials would not enter the site of the proposed plant again.

On Oct 15, the officer-in-charge of Kujanga police station, Amarendra Panda, wrote to Ardhendu Sekhar Mahapatra, general manager, relief and rehabilitation, Posco-India, asking him not to send any company official to the proposed site without seeking police permission, Patnaik said.

The state government said it would extend all help to company officials to start their work. However, the police were not allowing the company officials in, he added.

“We need to open a transit camp at the proposed site to expedite land demarcation activities for commencement of ground levelling for construction work on the plant to begin on April 1, 2008,” Patnaik said.

Company officials have gone to the local police station at Kujanga and met police officials several times in the past few days. They have also given in writing that they should be allowed to start work. They are yet to get a response, the company spokesman said.

“The situation remains tense and at this moment we cannot allow them to enter the site,” a police officer said. “It is possible after the situation becomes normal.”

The world’s fourth largest steel maker had signed a deal with the Orissa government in June 2005 to build a steel plant near Paradeep port in the coastal district of Jagatsinghpur, some 100 km from here, by 2016.

Over 20,000 people from around 15 nearby villages, including Dhinkia, Gada Kujang and Nuagaon, have been protesting the project, saying it would take away their homes and livelihoods.

Posco says the plant would affect only 500 families and would create thousands of jobs.

“Posco would acquire 4,004 acres of land for its project,” a senior district revenue official said.

Of this, 3,566 acres are government land, most of it forest land. The remaining 438 acres in the three panchayats of Adakujang, Dhinkia and Nuagaon are in private hands.

The government has already given 512 acres to Posco. It has also moved the centre for conversion of 3,000 acres of forestland for the purpose.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has earlier this week given instruction to the revenue divisional commissioner of the region to review every week the situation and the progress of the work for the proposed plant.