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Statement and letter from PPSS condemning Forest Clearance to POSCO

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*POSCO PRATIRODH SANGRAM SAMITI*

Village Dhinkia, Jagatsinghpur District, Orissa

To:

Shri Jairam Ramesh

Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Environment and Forests

Paryavaran Bhavan

New Delhi

Sub:- Reported grant of final (Stage II) forest clearance to POSCO-India for proposed Jagatsinghpur steel plant; *grant of clearance is in blatant violation of law and of Ministry�s own circular of July 30, 2009; immediate withdrawal of clearance and action against concerned officials required

Dear Sir,

We are an organization of the people of the Jagatsinghpur area of Orissa, where the multinational POSCO corporation plans to set up a steel plant on 4,000 acres of land (of which 3,003 acres is forest land). According to\ news reports (cf. for instance *Economic Times, *January 2, 2010), the

Ministry has granted final clearance for diversion of this forest land for the steel plant as of December 30, 2009.

*If any such final clearance has been granted, it is in blatant violation of the law, the Ministry�s own orders and the assurances repeatedly given by the Ministry and yourself to the press and to Parliament. It would appear that the Ministry is actively colluding with corporate vested interests and lying to Parliament and the people about its commitment to the law. *

Please note the following:

– The area technically classified as ‘forest’ proposed for the steel plant has a large number of people who have been living and cultivating the land for many decades, and who have claimed rights over it under the Forest Rights Act.

– Section 4(5) of the Forest Rights Act bars the removal of any forest dweller from their lands until recognition of rights is complete. This section came into force on January 1st, 2008, when the Act was notified. Section 3(1)(a) recognizes the rights of forest dwellers to lands that they are cultivating. Moreover, sections 3(1)(i) and 5 empower the community to protect community forests and their cultural and natural heritage. Section 7 further makes any violation of these provisions a criminal offence. *From January 1**st**, 2008, it has hence been illegal to hand over forest land to anyone without complying with these legal requirements.*

– On March 23rd, 2008, the gram (palli) sabha of Dhinkia village (the statutory authority to initiate the process of recognition of rights under section 6(1) of the Forest Rights Act) passed resolutions initiating the process of claims for rights, and further demarcating the boundaries of the village’s “community forest resource” and declaring its intention to protect it, including it�s resolve to deny consent to any diversion of this land. This forest land cannot now be disturbed without violating section 5 of the Act.

– On July 31st, 2009, your Ministry issued a circular in order to clarify these statutory requirements,. *This circular clearly requires that no diversion of forest land shall be approved without certification from the State government that the process of implementation of the Forest Rights Act is complete in the area (please note that complete implementation is required, not merely a claim that there are no eligible persons, which undoubtedly the State government has made). Moreover, the consent of the gram sabhas of the area to the diversion is required. The same has already been denied by the Dhinkia gram sabha and no further request for its consent has been received. *

– As recently as the debate in the Rajya Sabha on December 7th 2009, *you had cited this very circular to inform Parliament of your Ministry�s commitment to complying with the Forest Rights Act. *The Ministry is fully aware of the applicability of this law to this area and the legal requirements for it�s diversion. The resolutions of the Dhinkia gram Sabha were sent to the Ministry when they were passed in March 2008, and the issue has been repeatedly raised by other political leaders. CPI leader Shri D Raja has already written to the Prime Minister twice (16.5.2008 and 10.11.2009) on the fact that the allocation of forest land to POSCO is in direct violation of the Forest Rights Act.

*In light of the above it is clear that, if final clearance has indeed been granted, the Ministry is engaging in direct illegal collusion with a multinational corporation. The public statements from the Ministry can then only be interpreted as blatant lies. In this context we call upon you to immediately withdraw any such clearance and take action against those responsible for granting it.*

Sincerely,* *

Sd/-

(Prashant Paikray)

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Written by janjagriti

January 5, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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