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Letter to Sonia Gandhi

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4.11.2010

To:

Smt Sonia Gandhi

Chairperson, United Progressive Alliance

10, Janpath

New Delhi

Sub:- Withdrawal of illegal forest clearance given to POSCO-India

Dear Madam,

We are writing in regard to the POSCO project in Orissa. As you are aware, the Ministry of Environment and Forests is delaying on withdrawing the illegal clearances granted to this project, even after the POSCO Enquiry Committee report found that the grant of clearances for this project was “farcical”, and that the project will threaten lakhs of people living within an ecologically fragile coastal ecosystem. It appears that project continues to be pushed through in violation of law and people’s rights.

On Tuesday, you had informed the All India Congress Committee that “it is the nature of development that is in question. People must have a say and they must have a stake.” You also quoted former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi as saying that “Whenever the environment is damaged, bit of India dies.” Earlier this year and last year, you had also stated that the Forest Rights Act of 2006 is a “landmark legislation” whose implementation is a priority for the UPA.

We are afraid that the Ministry of Environment and Forests does not seem to be complying with these basic requirements. In particular, we request you to ensure that the Ministry accepts the recommendation of the Forest Advisory Committee to withdraw the forest clearance to the POSCO project, and to ensure that the Minister resists any attempt to dilute or undermine it, as has been done repeatedly in the past by the Ministry. In particular:

  • The grant of forest clearance, as a result of the Forest Rights Act and as clarified in the Ministry’s own orders, requires the democratic consent of the gram sabha.
  • It also requires a certificate from the gram sabha that the implementation is complete.
  • The forest clearance was granted illegally without any of the above and must now be withdrawn in full and permanently.
  • The decision must clearly state that no future forest clearance for this or any other project can be granted without the above
  • The environment clearances and CRZ clearances must also be withdrawn in light of this project’s potentially extremely dangerous impact on both the steel plant area and the rest of the district along with serious procedural irregularities in determining impact assessment of the activities in question.

We also call upon you to take steps to ensure that the government complies with the requirements of law and democracy.

Sincerely,

Akhil Gogoi, General Secretary, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Assam

Asit Das, POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity

Kanchi Kohli, Kalpavriksh Environmental Action Group

Madhumita Dutta, Corporate Accountability Desk-The Other Media, Chennai

Mamata Dash, National Forum for Forest Peoples and Forest Workers

Dr. Manoranjan Mohanty, Council for Social Development

Manshi Asher, POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity

Shankar Gopalakrishnan, Campaign for Survival and Dignity

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Written by janjagriti

November 8, 2010 at 11:23 am

Submission to the MoEF Committee on POSCO

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9th September 2010

ENVIRONMENT AND FOREST CLEARANCE RELATED ISSUES OF THE POSCO PROJECT IN JAGATSINGHPUR

SUBMISSION TO COMMITTEE CONSTITUTED BY MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT AND FORESTS ON POSCO INDIA PVT LTD. Vide ORDERS DATED 28TH JULY 2010 AND 27th AUGUST 2010

Dear Members of the Committee,

As you are aware, the State government of Orissa in June 2005 signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the South Korean company Pohang Steel Company (POSCO) for the establishment of a 12 million tonnes per annum Integrated Steel Plant at Ersamma Block of Jagatsinghpur district of the state. The POSCO deal waspart of the wave of investments in the steel sector that hit the state in the last few years during which almost 43 MoUs in the iron and steel sector, worth 1,60,132 crores have been signed by the Biju Janata Dal led Naveen Pattnaik Government. The Integrated Steel Project of the third largest Steel Company in the world is the biggest foreign direct investment in the country at 12 million dollars and has the following key components:
A Mining Project or captive mines to meet the iron ore requirement
A transportation component – a captive port along with road, rail infrastructure including the dedicated railway line from the mine-belt to Paradeep
An integrated township; and
A water supply infrastructure Water Project
Integrated Steel Plant of 12 MTPA to be constructed in three phases

Considering that the sheer magnitude of the project with all its components, the project will have far reaching diverse socio-economic as well as environmental impacts. As a result there has been growing opposition to the project since the very outset when the plans were known.  POSCO had earlier requested for an SEZ status for the implementation of all components of the project. With the delay in the grant of SEZ status, POSCO had begun pursuing clearances of the mining, steel plant and port components of the project separately. Separate Environment Impact Assessments (EIAs) were carried out for the steel plant and the port a The environment clearance applications were reviewed separately by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). The critical need for cumulative impact of all three components was completely missing.

In the sections presented below and the annexures along with this submission, we have attempted to highlight some of the social and environmental impacts of various components of POSCO’s proposed activities in Orissa, through the lens of the violations of the regulatory procedures related to environment and forest clearances. It also raised issues of relevance through other related processes which also point lapses that have a bearing on the social and ecological scenario in the region.

POSCO’s proposed activities are likely to have irreparable damage on local livelihoods of the areas and the fragile ecological systems where the project is to be implemented. Some critical impacts are:
While the official figure of families being affected is quoted as “upto 400″, according to the local leaders of the movement against the POSCO project the entire population of 22000 will be affected by the project in Jagatsinghpur (this does not include the huge degree of damage that will occur in the mining area in Khandadhar), due to displacement of livelihoods based on a thriving agricultural economy. Apart from the paddy cultivation, the most critical livelihood support is provided by the cultivation of paan or betel leaf. There are a total of 5000 vines in three panchayats and the daily sale figure by 10,000 betel wine owners is estimated to be 30 lakh leaves generating 7.5 lakh Rs. worth of income
The port proposed to come up at the mouth of the Jatadhari creek will ravage the sand dunes almost 20 ft high, spawning and breeding grounds of several fish species, a fragile estuarine stretch and much more. The construction at the mouth will cause water logging along the length of the creek and eventually kill it.
Another prime issue has been the threat to the nesting habitat of the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles as a result of this project. Several conservationists have pointed out that if the port is allowed to come up, it will irreversibly affect the breeding and nesting ground of this globally significant population, specifically at the beaches of the Devi river mouth.  Scientists in the country and abroad have raised concerns regarding the impacts of oil spills, illumination, the cumulative impacts of various ports proposed in close proximity to the three known mass nesting sites in the state. The present project site is at a distance under 10 kilometers from one of Orissa’s three known mass nesting beaches. At present, mass nesting of the Olive Ridley sea turtles [a protected species under Schedule – I of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1991] takes place at Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary, the Devi River mouth and at Rushikulya River mouth. Each of these sites has been accorded legal protection. The Jatadhar River mouth forms the northern portion of the Restricted Fishing Zone which the Orissa State Government has declared under the Orissa Marine Fisheries Regulation Act. The Central Empowered Committee appointed by the Supreme Court of India has also reiterated the need for protection of this site. At these nesting beaches, the Olive Ridley sea turtles nest in large numbers averaging about 200,000 turtles per year.
The port site is located in close proximity to the Devi River mouth mass nesting site for the Olive Ridley turtles. The presence or absence of illumination at a particular site is an important criteria for the selection of a particular beach as a nesting site by adult turtles. Over the years, the intensity of illumination from the Paradip port has intensified although located at distance of approximately 50 kilometres from the Gahirmatha nesting site.  Biologists are of the opinion that the illumination and the glow of light from the POSCO port area will inhibit nesting from taking place at the Devi River mouth area (See Annexure A).
The Khandadhar hills where POSCO has proposed its mining operations are covered with forests, inhabited by a wide variety of wildlife and as well as flora. The tribal communities  including the aboriginal tribes i.e., Paudi Bhuinyan,  form 74% of the population in the surrounding area, are completely dependent on these forests for fuel, fodder, fruits and medicinal plants. The water springs in the area provide water for drinking as well as irrigation. The mining would also affect the famous Khandadhar waterfall – which is also a famous tourist destination of the state.

Most of these points have a bearing on the irregularities mentioned below and have substantiations through the Annexures attached with this note.

II.  PROBLEMS WITH EIA AND PUBLIC HEARING PROCESS

a)  Lacunae in the EIA Reports and no ground level data collection:

The EIA reports for both the steel plant and captive port suffer from several inadequacies and lacunae. We are attaching with our submission two critiques by Mark Chernaik of E-Law and Centre for Science and Environment as Annexures 1 and 2.

We would like to bring to your attention Clause 8 (iv) of the EIA notification clearly states, “deliberate concealment and/or submission of false or misleading information or data which is material to screening or scoping or appraisal or decision on the application shall make  the application liable for rejection, and cancellation of prior environmental clearance granted on  that basis.”

b) Problems with the Public Hearing Process:

Joint Public Hearing for two projects: The public hearings for both the captive port and the steel plant were held jointly, despite there being two projects.  In keeping with the spirit of the EIA notification there should have been two separate public hearings for each of the projects. This goes completely against the spirit of the EIA notification. In this regard we would also like to bring to the attention of the committee, the 19th April 2010 office memorandum of the MoEF which has clarified that, “the public hearings pertaining to the same projects shall not be held at the same venue and at the same date and time.” A copy of this office memorandum is attached as Annexure B. The office memorandum is based on various instances wherein such multiple hearings have taken place and a related order of the High Court of Delhi (WRIT PETITION (Civil) No. 9340/2009 &. CM APPL Nos. 7127/09, 12496/2009, Utkarsh Mandal and Others).
Public Hearing Venue: The public hearing venue was at a High school, located at Kujanga which is 15 Km away from the project affected area which was a hindrance in the participation in the public hearing process.
Presence of Police Platoons: The entire public hearing process was held under police presence which is a retrograde practice only to curb open and fair communication at the time of the public hearing.
Objections not recorded:  Please also see http://www.newindpress.com/NewsItems.asp?ID=IEQ20070415103516 and  http://www.thestatesman.net/page.news.php   and Annexure 3 which mention that there was severe objection at the time of the public hearing. Persons who attended the public hearing had raised objections that the points raised by them were not recorded adequately in the public hearing. [Also see point ( c ) below]

We attach with this letter as Annexures 4, 5 and 6 as some submissions before and after the public hearing which substantiate our points above. There are other letters in Oriya language as submitted by the locally affected people which we would be willing to share with you.

The above points are totally in violation of the procedure of the public hearing laid out in the EIA Notification according to which the public consultation process is to be carried out “in a systematic, time bound and transparent manner ensuring widest public participation at the project site(s) or in its close proximity”.  The conduct of the public hearing was completely against the text and spirit of the procedure laid out in the EIA notification, 2006.

c) Inadequate appraisal process:

It is also important to note that within three days of the public hearing, its report reached the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in New Delhi. From 19.4.2007 onwards, the MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee on infrastructure projects sat to review the captive port project. In this meeting they dispensed their earlier decision for the need for a site inspection, took view of POSCO’s explanations and recommended the clearance of the port project. Quite interestingly one of the special conditions mentioned in the environment clearance letter of POSCO’s port project states that all the issues addressed at the time of the public hearing must be addressed comprehensively, and an Action Taken Report must be submitted within six months. In effect, this meant nothing less than sidelining all that was said at the time of the public hearing, to be looked at post facto, even though the concerns were related to the irreparable damage to be caused by the project. Further, there is no record of the action taken report in the public domain through any kind of suo moto disclosure to the affected people and others who had raised concerns. [See Annexure 7 for minutes of the EAC]

III. LACK OF TRANSPARENCY IN SEEKING ENVIRONMENT AND FOREST  CLEARANCES

a) Non disclosure of all components of project: Break Up of Clearances

As mentioned above the POSCO project as indicated in the MoU with the state government has several components, but the project authorities chose to pursue each of them separately. As a result of which there was no cumulative disclosure or assessment of the impacts of the mining project. This lack of disclosure also has a bearing on the manner in which the impacts of the loss of forests are assessed, as that is also done only for individual components of the project and not the entire array of activities. This was brought to the attention of the MoEF as well as the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) by social and environmental organisations. Attached are the copies of these submissions as well as the report of the CEC which indicates the same, to substantiate our point here as Annexures 8, 9 and 10.

b) Clearance letters still not available on MoEF website: Concerned citizens have been pointing to the lack of availability of POSCO’s environment and forest clearances letters on the MoEF website since 2007. The situation still remains the same at the time of writing this letter. Annexure 11 are the letters sent to MoEF back in 2007.

We once again refer to Clause 8 (iv) of the EIA notification, 2006 which has been mentioned in the point I (a) above.

IV. FOREST CLEARANCE

The forest clearance process of the various proposed POSCO projects has also been an area of concern essentially for the impacts on the area as well as the procedural irregularities. For the reasons cited below we believe that the forest clearance granted to the POSCO steel plant is illegal.

a) Forest clearance despite lack of transparency and irreparable forest loss:

The setting up of the steel plant and port requires a diversion of 1,253.255 ha of forest land for non-forest use. This is a mandatory procedure to be followed as per the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. The grant of clearance would mean felling of about 280,000 trees. As per procedure, the proposal was considered by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) under the MoEF on 9 August 2007. This committee recommended the grant of forest clearance. However the project also came under the scrutiny of the 27 April 2007 order of the Supreme Court according to which all fresh decisions of the FAC would be subject to review by the Supreme Court bench in the T N Godavarman v/s Thirumulpad case. Before taking a final view, the apex court now seeks comments of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) set up as a monitoring body by the same bench.

The CEC in its 14.11.2007 report (see Annexure 10) amongst other things recommended two critical points which also took on board the mining component of POSCO’s projected activities. We reiterate these points:

“The CEC is of the view that instead of piecemeal diversion of forest land for the project, it would be appropriate that the total forest land required for the project including for mining is assessed and a decision for diversion of forest land is taken for the entire forest land after considering the ecological importance of the area, number of trees required to be felled, adequacy and effectiveness of the R&R plan for the project affected persons and benefits accruing to the State. The diversion of forest land for the plant, without taking a decision for the linked uses particularly the mining project may not be in order.
“Since the number of trees involved is about 2.8 lakhs, it would be in order that an independent expert committee including representatives of the NGOs should undertake a site visit in order to assess the impact of the cutting of such a large number of trees and suggest mitigative measures for the area, specially since there is a large dependence of local population on these forests. Subject to the compliance of the above observations the proposed diversion of foresee land may be permitted.”

The Supreme Court through its 8.8.2008 order sent the proposal back to the MoEF to consider for grant of forest clearance, indicating that they did not have an objection in this regard. The court order does not say anything about the CEC’s recommendation that the impacts of the project need to be considered in its entirety. It does however recognize that 2.8 lakh trees in the coastal area are to be felled for which mitigation measures should be put in place. For this they have appointed one of the CEC members, S.K.Patnaik along with representatives of MoEF and Orissa government to suggest mitigation measures.

The project was granted final forest clearance on 29th December 2009 despite the above mentioned lacunae as well as critical violations mentioned below.

b) Violation of Forest clearance with no FRA process (illegal)

The provisions under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest-Dwellers Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006 (referred to further as FRA) and its relation to the forest clearance process are very important to consider. The Act provides for settlement of rights by recognising the right of forest-dwellers to occupy, cultivate, use and protect areas within which they were residing before December 13, 2005. The rules for the Act were notified in January 2008. So, the forest clearance for the project could not have been granted till this process of filing claims and conferring rights was initiated and completed. This is especially so because back in March 2008, the Palli sabha in Dhinkia village had already passed a resolution citing sections of the legislation declaring that they did not consent to any proposed diversion. This is attached as Annexure 12.

Since 30th July 2009, there has also been a circular of the MoEF in operation which also seeks the above, not just for POSCO but for all projects coming up before the MoEF for forest clearance. The circular clearly states, “The State/UT Governments, where process of settlement of Rights under the  FRA is yet to begin, are required to enclose evidences supporting that settlement of  rights under FRA 2006 will be initiated and completed before the final approval for  proposals.”. Within five months of the issuance of this circular, the forest clearance for POSCO is granted without the FRA process in the area being complete. The MoEF has justified this clearance by laying down a condition in the clearance letter that the processes under the FRA  need to be completed for the clearance to come into effect. This is in complete violation of the FRA as well as MoEF’s own circular. However, the MoEF despite submissions has upheld the illegal forest clearance.

It is disconcerting that the MoEF has viewed projects with similar considerations differently. The FRA is the one significant and most critical ground based on which the final forest clearance for the mining in Niyamgiri (Orissa) was not granted in August 2010. However, in complete disregard to its own circular and also the FRA process as being implemented in the country, the forest clearance for the POSCO steel plant remains valid.

We request you to also see: http://www.indiatogether.org/2010/jul/env-posco.htm; http://infochangeindia.org/200812097525/Environment/Analysis/When-people-are-encumbrances-and-projects-are-a-national-necessity.html.

Letter from the Chairman of the FRA committee set up by the MoEF is attached as Annexure 13 and MoEF letter halting land acquisition by POSCO as Annexure 14.

b) Lack of ground verification before forest clearance

Since the local communities had barricaded the entry of outsiders into the area; the forest clearance had been approved based on an aerial survey. According to Biswajit Mohanty of Wildlife Society of Orissa who had got information in response to a Right to Information application, states that, “The Chief Conservator of Forests, Eastern India Regional Office of Ministry of Environment and Forests, Bhubaneswar could not carry out a site verification of the proposed site and the forests sought to be diverted for proposed Posco’s steel plant at Paradip.” He is referring to the Site Inspection Report dated 21.7.2007 submitted by the Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF), MoEF Eastern India Regional Office, Bhubaneshwar which was received through the RTI. As per para 2 of the site inspection report dated 21.7.2007, the CCF has mentioned that he has undertaken an aerial view of the area from a low flying helicopter which is a clear violation of the procedures for diversion of forest land under the Forest (Conservation) Act,1980 and guidelines issued there under.

V. PROBLEMS WITH THE MOU AND EXPIRY OF THE MOU

POSCO’s MoU has been ridden with anti people and anti environment clauses which pre-empt the state government support to the project; even before environment and social impact assessments are complete. This completely undermines a free prior informed decision making process on the project. The clauses of the MoU state:

“The Government of Orissa will recommend such areas as are free from litigation as well as encumbrances. In the event of litigation at any stage, Government of Orissa will diligently defend their recommendations made in favour of the Company in the appropriate judicial, quasi judicial fora.”
“All iron ore Mining Leases and Prospecting Licenses shall be clean and free of any encumbrances.”
“The Government of Orissa will assist the Company in obtaining all clearances, including forest and environment clearance and approval of the State Pollution Control Board, and the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India under Forest      (Conservation) Act, 1980 and Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986 for opening up the iron ore mines, laying roads, constructing township etc.”
“The Government of Orissa agrees to facilitate and use its best efforts to enable the Company to obtain a “No Objection Certificate” (NOC) through the State Pollution Control Board in the minimum possible time for the development and operation of the Project.”

Attached is a critique of the MoU of POSCO with the State Government of Orissa as Annexure 15.

The MoU stands expired on 22nd June 2010, and perhaps the new modalities are already underway or perhaps even finalised at the state level. But the MoU has a startling clause which states that “ no such extension shall be considered unless the Company has made substantial progress on  implementation of the project in terms of construction, erection of plant and machinery  and investment at site to the satisfaction of the State Government in these five years in  implementing the first phase as envisaged in this MoU.” According to the same document the first phase should have meant that 6 MT production of steel should have been commissioned, which has not happened.

We believe that this is an opportune time for the POSCO project with all is violations and irregularities to be reviewed and reassessed. All the existing clearances appraised without application of mind and bias need to be withdrawn with immediate effect.

VI. IMPACTS ON THE PARADIP PORT and  OBJECTION OF MINISTRY OF SHIPPING

While POSCO intends to utilize part of this iron ore in its steel plant, the company plans to ship out another part through export. The company had earlier been offered the facilities of the existing government owned Paradip port near the project area for doing so. But at the insistence of POSCO, the mouth of pristine Jatadhar estuary has been “cleared” for the establishment of a captive port. This is despite the fact that in 2006, the Minister of Shipping, T.R.Baalu had written a letter to the Orissa government highlighting concerns on the impacts the setting up of a special facility will have on the commercial viability of existing Paradip port, which is yet another public sector establishment. Yet sanctions are through for setting up of the captive port within a distance of 12 km from the Paradip Port. Established in 1965-66, this mini- ratna company which has consistently logged in growing profits, this should have been the first choice to meet the requirements of POSCO. The Paradip Port Shramik Sangh  states that the traffic of 13 MT of iron ore for POSCO can be easily arranged within the 14 cargo berths with an annual capacity of 51.4 million tonnes. In the year 2006-2007 the port handled 38.52 million tonnes cargo from 1452 cargo ships. Exclusive berths have been made available to Paradeep Phospate Ltd (PPL) and Indian Farmers’ Fertilizer Cooperative Ltd (IFFCO), projects in the vicinity of the Paradip Port. The decision to allow POSCO’s captive port seems to have been made on considerations that don’t include maximising existing infrastructure.

News Reports related to the Ministry of Shipping’s Objection are attached as Annexure 16 and an article on impact of POSCO’s activities on various PSUs is attached as Annexure 17.
In the light of all the facts related to violations and impacts above, we request the MoEF committee on POSCO to recommend the withdrawal of all existing environment and forest clearances related to POSCO India Limited. We also request the committee to recommend stringent action against the company and individuals (both government and non government) involved abetting these violations.

We look forward to your action in this regard.

Sincerely

S/d
1.Kanchi Kohli, Kalpavriksh, New Delhi
2.Manshi Asher, Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh
3.Vandana Shiva, RFSTE, New Delhi
4.Sudhir Pattnaik, Writer and Activist, Bhubaneshwar
5.Vijayan M.J. Delhi Forum, New Delhi
6.Mamata Dash, Activist and Researcher, New Delhi
7.Subrat Kumar Sahu, Independent film maker and Journalist
8.S. Parasuraman, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
9.Sharadchandra Lele, ATREE, Bangalore
10.Dunu Roy, Hazards Centre, New Delhi
11.Aruna Rodrigues, Sunray Harvesters, Mhow
12.Ashok Agrawaal, Advocate, Supreme Court of India, New Delhi
13.Aarthi Sridhar, Dakshin Foundation, Bangalore
14.Joanna Van Gruisen, Baavan Trust
15.P V Satheesh, Deccan Development Society [DDS], Pastapur Village, Andhra Pradesh
16.C N Suresh Kumar, Alliance for Food Sovereignty in South Asia [AFSSA], Hyderabad
17.Vatturi Srinivas, Millet Network of India [MINI], Hyderabad
18.A Giridhar Babu, South Against Genetic Engineering [SAGE], Hyderabad
19.Alliance for Democratising Agricultural Research in South Asia [ADARSA]
20.Jayasri Cherukuri, AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity [APCIDD], Andhra Pradesh
21.Madhumita Dutta, Corporate Accountability Desk, Chennai
22.Mangaraj Panda,Coordinator, Orissa Marine Resources Conservation Consortium, Orissa
23.Subash Patnaik, Project Coordinator, United Artists Association, Ganjam, Orissa
24.M. Parvati, Secretary, Samudram Fishworker Womens’ Federation, Orissa
25.Simhachal Nahak, Rushikulya Rayat Mahasabha, Ganjam District, Orissa
26.Nityanand Jayaraman, Independent Journalist, Chennai
27.Aruna Roy/Nikhil Dey/Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Rajasthan
28.Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Badwani (M.P.) & Pune

Written by janjagriti

September 11, 2010 at 6:12 am

Complaint to NHRC and NCW on Police atrocities on villagers in Balitutha, Jagatsinhpur

To,

The Chairperson

National Human Rights Commission

Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg,

New Delhi 110 001

25-8-2010

Sub: Police atrocities on villagers in Balitutha, Jagatsinhpur District, Orissa

Dear Sir,

This is to bring to your attention the unprovoked atrocities and arson carried out by the Orissa state police on a peaceful demonstration of farmers and fisherfolk in Balitutha town of Ersama block in Jagatsinhpur district, Orissa on 15th May, 2010. As you may be well aware, around 4000 acres of agricultural and forest land in the area is proposed to be acquired for setting up of a steel plant by the South Korean multinational Pohang Steel Company (POSCO). Since 2005, the inhabitants of the surrounding villages, specifically of Dhinkia, Gobindpur and Nuagaon, have been opposing the land acquisition and establishment of the factory on grounds of loss of livelihood, environmental degradation and violation of their rights to forest land under the Forest Rights Act. In this context, hundreds of villagers had been sitting on a peaceful dharna organized by the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) at Balitutha from 26th January, 2010.

On 15th May 2010, while hundreds of villagers, a majority of them being women, were assembled peacefully at the dharna site at Balitutha, 40 divisions of Orissa state police led by the Superintendent of Police of Jagatsinhpur district, ordered and then proceeded to forcibly disperse the assembled villagers. What followed was an unleashing of unspeakable atrocities on the villagers present at the site, in which the police used lathis, teargas, rubber bullets and shotgun pellets to attack the villagers, regardless of age and sex. The villagers’ wounds and their description of what happened that day in Balitutha is a grim testimony of what the state can inflict on peaceful protesters. Around two hundred people from the three villages of Dhinkia, Gobindpur and Nuagaon were injured in the brutal attack by the police. Wounds were from rubber bullets, lathis and something that is unprecedented, from pellets fired from shotguns. These are small spherical pellets, like bicycle ball-bearings, which have been fired in thousands. Many people had five or six of these metal pellets painfully embedded under their skins. This is a most inhuman weapon, which have been used in the past in Israel and South Africa to break up demonstrations without causing life-threatening injuries. The Orissa police seem to have adopted this as a new means of sowing terror among peaceful demonstrators. Without availability of doctors and unable to reach hospitals, as the police had blockaded the villages, many people were being forced to extract the pellets at home using knifes and blades even three days after the incident.

Women seem to have been especially targeted for assault and humiliation. We met the following injured personally and witnessed their injuries and heard their description of the police atrocities (photographs attached):

Mounabati Das, in her fifties, who after being hit by a rubber bullet on her leg and falling on the ground, described how she was dragged around by her hair by the police who threatened her in filthy language that this would be the consequence of resisting the government. She had a large subcutaneous blood clot from the rubber bullet which hit her thigh which seriously impeded her walking.

Tikki Bardhan, whose foot seems to have been fractured after being hit by a rubber bullet, could not walk at all. There had been no doctor to see her and plaster the fractured foot. Her husband, Bharat Bardhan, had been hit by a rubber bullet and a shotgun pellet on his face. He had barely missed losing his right eye, but the bullet broke a tooth and a blood vessel in his nose because of which he had been profusely bleeding from his nose. The shot gun pellet was still embedded in his left cheek.

Shantilata Mahapatra was hit by a rubber bullet and a shotgun pellet on her leg. She could barely walk.

Gujuri Mahanti, a 72 year old grandmother, had been hit by three rubber bullets on the back of her head, on the small of her back and behind her waist. It was difficult for her to sit or even lie down, except on her side. She described how the assembled women were attacked by the police on that day. The women had been sitting in dharna in front of the bridge. The police, who were on the bridge, ordered them to move away and clear the path. After about two hours, when they got up and turned to move away, the police suddenly attacked with tear gas, rubber bullets and pellet guns. Many of the elderly women, including herself, choking on the tear gas, somehow moved away from the spot and reached what they thought to be a safe distance, where they tried to gather together. But the police turned their fire on this group and kept firing on their backs as they tried to run away. This is clearly shown by the fact that she was hit by rubber bullets on her back. The police, who had the advantage of being situated on higher ground on the bridge, fired at will on the people assembled on lower ground at one end of the bridge. When the women were running away, the police descended from the bridge and assaulted them with lathis and dragged them around by their hair. Five of them, including a 60 year old grandmother, were dragged into police vans and taken away, without being formally arrested or without any charges.

In an unprecedented manner, the police also indulged in widespread arson at the site of the incident. Balitutha, where the incident took place had been converted into a scene of destruction. The police, exhibiting a disturbing sign of wreaking vengeance, not only burnt down the shamiana under which the dharna had been held for the last five months, but also set fire to all the roadside shops, eateries and thatched houses on one side of the Balitutha bridge. About fifteen motor cycles, many bicycles, a truck and a tractor was burnt down in this process. A shop, owned by an individual named Ranjan Sahu, was burned down resulting in the loss of goods worth Rs Five lakhs. All of this has been vividly shown on the Oriya television channels. It is absolutely unexpected that the police, considered as “keepers of the law”, would indulge in such widespread arson in the course of a police action in the presence of high officials. We apprehend that these were done under the orders of the Orissa government to sow terror amongst the villagers who have been resisting the acquisition of their land. More disturbingly, after the incident all the exit points from the villages of Dhinkia, Gobindpur and Nuagaon, through Balitutha and Trilochanpur, had been sealed by the police, and with the threat of arrest looming large on anyone who stepped out of the villages, nearly no one had received medical treatment for their wounds. With festering wounds and fractured limbs, many people, including the elderly, had to suffer their ordeal silently in the confines of their homes for several weeks after the incidence. Even till date, some of the injured people remain without medical attention.

Similar brutality on the people by the State was repeated on 2nd June 2010, when the villagers protested the forcible socio-economic survey being conducted by the district administration in Nuagoan. Armed Orissa state police attacked the people with lathis, and kicked them with boots. Over 15 people were injured in the police lathi charge. Two of the injured villagers from Nuagaon- Natha Samal and Ajay Swain were also arrested and imprisoned (were released on bail on 2nd July, 2010). Natha Samal had metal pellets embedded on his head from the 15th May attack by the police and had been unable to get treatment due to fear of arrest. Even while he was in the prison, no treatment was given to him for his injuries. Ajay Swain was severely beaten in the Kujang police station after his arrest on 2nd June.

Sir, we would like to bring to your notice that these atrocities by the Orissa police on villagers assembled peacefully gravely violates their fundamental right to freedom to assemble peacefully without arms and to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. It is also of grave concern that the police of the Indian state can inflict such brutal atrocities on peaceful protesters, especially women and the elderly. We note with growing concern the increasingly frequent cases of injuries and deaths of protesting farmers by police firing, as happened recently on 14th August, 2010 in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh which follows the same pattern as the incident in Balitutha, Orissa. We request you to urgently investigate the matter concerning the police atrocities on villagers in Balitutha, Orissa on 15th May and in Nuagaon on 2nd June and take measures that the victims get justice and due compensation and such incidents, which are blots on our democracy, are not repeated.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely,

Partho Sarothi Ray

96/2 Rajdanga School Road, Kolkata 700107, West Bengal.

Madhumita Dutta

H 31/39, Ashtalakshmi Gardens, Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090, Tamil Nadu. Phone: 09444390240

Satya Sivaraman

482, Mandakini Enclave, Alaknanda, New Delhi 110019.

Encl: News clips and photos of police attack on 15th May and 2nd June 2010.

To,

The Chairperson

National Commission for Women

4, Deen Dayal Upadhayaya Marg, New Delhi110 002

25-8-2010

Sub: Police atrocities on villagers in Balitutha, Jagatsinhpur District, Orissa

Dear Madam,

This is to bring to your attention the unprovoked atrocities and arson carried out by the Orissa state police on a peaceful demonstration of farmers and fisherfolk in Balitutha town of Ersama block in Jagatsinhpur district, Orissa on 15th May, 2010. As you may be well aware, around 4000 acres of agricultural and forest land in the area is proposed to be acquired for setting up of a steel plant by the South Korean multinational Pohang Steel Company (POSCO). Since 2005, the inhabitants of the surrounding villages, specifically of Dhinkia, Gobindpur and Nuagaon, have been opposing the land acquisition and establishment of the factory on grounds of loss of livelihood, environmental degradation and violation of their rights to forest land under the Forest Rights Act. In this context, hundreds of villagers had been sitting on a peaceful dharna organized by the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) at Balitutha from 26th January, 2010.

On 15th May 2010, while hundreds of villagers, a majority of them being women, were assembled peacefully at the dharna site at Balitutha, 40 divisions of Orissa state police led by the Superintendent of Police of Jagatsinhpur district, ordered and then proceeded to forcibly disperse the assembled villagers. What followed was an unleashing of unspeakable atrocities on the villagers present at the site, in which the police used lathis, teargas, rubber bullets and shotgun pellets to attack the villagers, regardless of age and sex. The villagers’ wounds and their description of what happened that day in Balitutha is a grim testimony of what the state can inflict on peaceful protesters. Around two hundred people from the three villages of Dhinkia, Gobindpur and Nuagaon were injured in the brutal attack by the police. Wounds were from rubber bullets, lathis and something that is unprecedented, from pellets fired from shotguns. These are small spherical pellets, like bicycle ball-bearings, which have been fired in thousands. Many people had five or six of these metal pellets painfully embedded under their skins. This is a most inhuman weapon, which have been used in the past in Israel and South Africa to break up demonstrations without causing life-threatening injuries. The Orissa police seem to have adopted this as a new means of sowing terror among peaceful demonstrators. Without availability of doctors and unable to reach hospitals, as the police had blockaded the villages, many people were being forced to extract the pellets at home using knifes and blades even three days after the incident.

Women seem to have been especially targeted for assault and humiliation. We met the following injured personally and witnessed their injuries and heard their description of the police atrocities (photographs attached):

Mounabati Das, in her fifties, who after being hit by a rubber bullet on her leg and falling on the ground, described how she was dragged around by her hair by the police who threatened her in filthy language that this would be the consequence of resisting the government. She had a large subcutaneous blood clot from the rubber bullet which hit her thigh which seriously impeded her walking.

Tikki Bardhan, whose foot seems to have been fractured after being hit by a rubber bullet, could not walk at all. There had been no doctor to see her and plaster the fractured foot. Her husband, Bharat Bardhan, had been hit by a rubber bullet and a shotgun pellet on his face. He had barely missed losing his right eye, but the bullet broke a tooth and a blood vessel in his nose because of which he had been profusely bleeding from his nose. The shot gun pellet was still embedded in his left cheek.

Shantilata Mahapatra was hit by a rubber bullet and a shotgun pellet on her leg. She could barely walk.

Gujuri Mahanti, a 72 year old grandmother, had been hit by three rubber bullets on the back of her head, on the small of her back and behind her waist. It was difficult for her to sit or even lie down, except on her side. She described how the assembled women were attacked by the police on that day. The women had been sitting in dharna in front of the bridge. The police, who were on the bridge, ordered them to move away and clear the path. After about two hours, when they got up and turned to move away, the police suddenly attacked with tear gas, rubber bullets and pellet guns. Many of the elderly women, including herself, choking on the tear gas, somehow moved away from the spot and reached what they thought to be a safe distance, where they tried to gather together. But the police turned their fire on this group and kept firing on their backs as they tried to run away. This is clearly shown by the fact that she was hit by rubber bullets on her back. The police, who had the advantage of being situated on higher ground on the bridge, fired at will on the people assembled on lower ground at one end of the bridge. When the women were running away, the police descended from the bridge and assaulted them with lathis and dragged them around by their hair. Five of them, including a 60 year old grandmother, were dragged into police vans and taken away, without being formally arrested or without any charges.

In an unprecedented manner, the police also indulged in widespread arson at the site of the incident. Balitutha, where the incident took place had been converted into a scene of destruction. The police, exhibiting a disturbing sign of wreaking vengeance, not only burnt down the shamiana under which the dharna had been held for the last five months, but also set fire to all the roadside shops, eateries and thatched houses on one side of the Balitutha bridge. About fifteen motor cycles, many bicycles, a truck and a tractor was burnt down in this process. A shop, owned by an individual named Ranjan Sahu, was burned down resulting in the loss of goods worth Rs Five lakhs. All of this has been vividly shown on the Oriya television channels. It is absolutely unexpected that the police, considered as “keepers of the law”, would indulge in such widespread arson in the course of a police action in the presence of high officials. We apprehend that these were done under the orders of the Orissa government to sow terror amongst the villagers who have been resisting the acquisition of their land. More disturbingly, after the incident all the exit points from the villages of Dhinkia, Gobindpur and Nuagaon, through Balitutha and Trilochanpur, had been sealed by the police, and with the threat of arrest looming large on anyone who stepped out of the villages, nearly no one had received medical treatment for their wounds. With festering wounds and fractured limbs, many people, including the elderly, had to suffer their ordeal silently in the confines of their homes for several weeks after the incidence. Even till date, some of the injured people remain without medical attention.

Similar brutality on the people by the State was repeated on 2nd June 2010, when the villagers protested the forcible socio-economic survey being conducted by the district administration in Nuagoan. Armed Orissa state police attacked the people with lathis, and kicked them with boots. Over 15 people were injured in the police lathi charge. Two of the injured villagers from Nuagaon- Natha Samal and Ajay Swain were also arrested and imprisoned (were released on bail on 2nd July, 2010). Natha Samal had metal pellets embedded on his head from the 15th May attack by the police and had been unable to get treatment due to fear of arrest. Even while he was in the prison, no treatment was given to him for his injuries. Ajay Swain was severely beaten in the Kujang police station after his arrest on 2nd June.

Sir, we would like to bring to your notice that these atrocities by the Orissa police on villagers assembled peacefully gravely violates their fundamental right to freedom to assemble peacefully without arms and to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. It is also of grave concern that the police of the Indian state can inflict such brutal atrocities on peaceful protesters, especially women and the elderly. We note with growing concern the increasingly frequent cases of injuries and deaths of protesting farmers by police firing, as happened recently on 14th August, 2010 in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh which follows the same pattern as the incident in Balitutha, Orissa. We request you to urgently investigate the matter concerning the police atrocities on villagers in Balitutha, Orissa on 15th May and in Nuagaon on 2nd June and take measures that the victims get justice and due compensation and such incidents, which are blots on our democracy, are not repeated.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely

Partho Sarothi Ray

96/2 Rajdanga School Road, Kolkata 700107, West Bengal

Madhumita Dutta

H 31/39, Ashtalakshmi Gardens, Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090, Tamil Nadu. Phone: 09444390240

Satya Sivaraman

482, Mandakini Enclave, Alaknanda, New Delhi 110019.


Written by janjagriti

August 27, 2010 at 4:10 am

Complaint letter from PPSS: Officials responsible for illegal actions in connection with POSCO project in Jagatsinghpur District, Orissa

POSCO PRATIRODH SANGRAM SAMITI
Villages of Dhinkia, Gadkujang, Nuagaon; Jagatsinghpur District, Orissa
23.08.2010
To:
Shri Jairam Ramesh
Minister for Environment and Forests
New Delhi
Shri Naveen Patnaik
Chief Minister of Orissa
Bhubaneshwar
Sub:­   Officials   responsible   for   illegal   actions   in   connection   with   POSCO   project   in
Jagatsinghpur District, Orissa
Dear Sirs,
We are writing in connection with the crimes committed by the officials of the Ministry of the  Environment and Forests and the Government of Orissa in connection with the POSCO project.
We hope you will take this matter seriously considering that these officials have violated the  laws of the land and sought to criminally seize the lands and forests of the poor in order to  benefit a multinational company.  The Orissa government and the Ministry have admitted to  these actions on record.  Such anti national, anti social and criminal actions by officials do not
portend well for the rule of law and the sovereignty of the country, and those guilty of it should be subjected to exemplary punishment.
These officials violated the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act  and the Forest (Conservation) Act.   They should therefore be prosecuted and  punished under section 7 of the former and section 3A and 3B of the latter.  In the case of officials  of the Orissa government who have withheld information and falsified records, prosecution should be initiated against them under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (named below). The said officials should also be investigated under the  Prevention of Corruption Act  given the  undue favour they have shown to the company, indicating that they may have secured personal advantage from their actions.
These facts should be referred to the Central Vigilance Commission and made the subject of a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry.  This complaint is being copied to the Central Vigilance Commission as well. We give below an illustrative list of those who, even from the face of the record, are clearly guilty of gross illegalities and violations of law.   Any fair and impartial inquiry however will also no doubt find many others who are guilty.
Background
We reiterate that we are other traditional forest dwellers who have resided in this area for centuries.  Our   livelihood   is   dependent   on   betel   vine   cultivation   on   forest   land,   and/or   on   forest   produce collection and associated activities.   We are therefore eligible as per section 2(o) of the Forest Rights   Act   and   have   individual   and   community   rights   over   the   forest   land   in   this   area.     This eligibility can moreover only be decided by the process under the Act.  Yet the Orissa government and the Central government have conspired and colluded with POSCO to steal lands and resources that do not belong to them and to hand them over to this company for its profits.
We bring to your notice that the palli sabha of the village of Dhinkia has, on March 23 rd, 2008 and February 5th, 2010, asserted our rights over this land and its powers under the Act to protect the forests and forest lands of the area.  The same has been done by the palli sabhas of Nuagaon and Govindpur in on February 3rd, 2010 and February 6th, 2010 respectively.
Officials In the Ministry of Environment and Forests
Secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forests (in September 2008) Violations of law:
1. Grant   of   in   principle   clearance   to   POSCO­India   for   use   of   land   in   Jagatsinghpur   on September 19, 2008, despite non­implementation of the Forest Rights Act in the area, non compliance with the requirements of law and the specific decision of the Dhinkia palli sabha under section 5 of the Act to protect and preserve the area.  This is a violation of sections 3(1), 4(1), 4(5) and 5 of the Forest Rights Act, as the forest rights of the people were not recognised.
Actions Required:
1. Prosecution for criminal offence under section 7 of the Forest Rights Act.
2. Disciplinary proceedings for showing arbitrary and undue favour to POSCO­India.
Secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forests (in December 2009)
1. Grant of final clearance to POSCO­India in violation of the above sections of the Forest Rights Act and the August 3rd, 2009 circular of Ministry of Environment and Forests.  None of the documents required by the latter were with the Ministry at the time of the decision to grant final clearance.
Actions Required:
1. Prosecution for criminal offence under section 7 of the Forest Rights Act
2. Disciplinary proceedings for violation of order of August 3 rd, 2009 and for showing undue
and arbitrary favour to POSCO­India.
Officials in the Government of Orissa
Gyanaranjan Dash, former Collector, Jagatsinghpur District (in February 2010)
Violations of law:
1. Falsely claimed to have completed implementation of the Forest Rights Act in the proposed
diversion area.
2. Usurped power of the gram sabha to initiate process for determination of rights, despite passage of resolutions by Dhinkia, Govindpur and Nuagaon palli sabhas in March 2008 and February 2010.  This was a violation of sections 4(1) and 6 of the Forest Rights Act.
3. Knowingly framing records in a manner known to be incorrect, in order to cause the people of this village, the other villages of Dhinkia gram panchayat, and the villages of the gram panchayats of Nuagaon and Gadkujang to suffer grievous loss and injury, in the form of the loss of their lands and forest resources over which they enjoy rights as per law.  In doing so, the Collector has also maliciously pronounced a false report in contravention of law in the course of quasi­judicial proceedings under the Forest Rights Act.  This includes his failure to submit   the   actual   palli   sabha   resolutions   of   Dhinkia   palli   sabha   (March   23, 2008   and February 5, 2010), Nuagaon palli sabha (February 3 rd, 2010) and Govindpur (February 6th, 2010).
Actions required:
1. Prosecution under section 7 of the Forest Rights Act for intentional violation of the rights of forest dwellers and for exceeding authority under the said Act.
2. Prosecution under sections 218 and 219 of the Indian Penal Code for knowingly framing false records with the intent to cause injury and for maliciously pronouncing a report in a quasi­judicial proceeding with the knowledge that the said report is contrary to law.
3. Disciplinary proceedings for falsification of records and showing undue favour to POSCO­
India.
Narayan Chandra Jena, Collector, Jagatsinghpur District
Violations of law:
1. Failure to recognise rights under the Forest Rights Act or ensure implementation of the said Act, in violation of sections 3(1) and 4(1) of the said Act.
2. Illegally taking over  forest lands between for the POSCO project in violation of section 4(5) of the Forest Rights Act, of conditionalities imposed by the Environment Ministry in the final forest clearance of December 29, 2009 and subsequent correspondence, and therefore in violation of section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act.
Actions required:
1. Prosecution under section 7 of the Forest Rights Act for intentional violation of the rights of forest dwellers.
2. Prosecution under section 3A of the Forest (Conservation) Act for illegally taking over forest land for handover to POSCO­India.
3. Disciplinary proceedings for violation of law and for showing undue favour to POSCOIndia.
U.N. Behera, Principal Secretary, Forests, Government of Orissa
Violations of law:
1. Falsely stating the circumstances of the situation to the Ministry of Environment and Forests and violating the conditionalities in the letters of the Ministry in order to hand over land to POSCO­India.
2. Falsely claiming in a letter to the Ministry of Environment and Forests that the palli sabhas  of Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Govindpur never passed resolutions in February 2010 asserting  rights   and   denying   consent   to   the   diversion   of   forest   land,   when   such   resolutions   were passed, are verifiable from the panchayat register, and indeed were passed on the basis of the letter of the Collector of Jagatsinghpur himself.
3. Thereby knowingly framing records in a manner known to be incorrect, in order to cause the people of this village, the other villages of Dhinkia gram panchayat, and the villages of the gram panchayats of Nuagaon and Gadkujang to suffer grievous loss and injury, in the form of the loss of their lands and forest resources over which they enjoy rights as per law.
Actions required:
1. Prosecution under section 218 of the Indian Penal Code for knowingly framing false records with the intent to cause injury.
2. Prosecution under section 7 of the Forest Rights Act for intentional violation of the rights of forest dwellers.
3. Prosecution under sections 3A and 3B of the Forest (Conservation) Act for illegally taking over forest land for handover to POSCO­India.
4. Disciplinary proceedings for showing arbitrary and undue favour to POSCO­India.
Priyabrata Patnaik, Chairperson  and  Managing Director, Orissa Industrial Infrastructure
Development Corporation
Nursingh Charana Swain, Land Acquisition Officer, Jagatsinghpur District
Muralidhara Mullick, Sub­Collector, Jagatsinghpur District
Upendra Nath Mullick, Additional District Magistrate, Jagatsinghpur District
Jeevan Chandra Mullick, Tehsildar, Erasama
Basudev Pradhan, Tehsildar, Kujang
Saroj Kant Chowdhury, Additional District Magistrate, Paradeep
Muralidhara Swain, Block Development Officer, Erasama
Violations of law:
1. Illegally taking over  forest lands between for the POSCO project in July 2010 in violation of section   4(5)   of   the   Forest   Rights   Act,   of   conditionalities   imposed   by   the   Environment Ministry in the final forest clearance of December 29, 2009 and subsequent correspondence, and therefore in violation of section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act.
2. Destruction of betel vines and other crops and property of forest dwellers in violation of sections 3(1), 4(1) and 4(5) of the Forest Rights Act.
Actions required:
1. Prosecution under section 7 of the Forest Rights Act for intentional violation of the rights of forest dwellers.
2. Prosecution under sections 3A and 3B of the Forest (Conservation) Act for illegally taking over forest land for handover to POSCO­India.
3. Disciplinary proceedings for showing arbitrary and undue favour to POSCO­India.
Sincerely,
(Sisir Mohapatra)
Sarpanch, Dhinkia Panchayat and General Secretary, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti
Cc: Central Vigilance Commission, Satarkata Bhavan, A­Block, GPO Complex, INA, New Delhi ­
110 023
Directorate of Vigilance, Government of Orissa, Cuttack – 753001
Contact: Prashant Paikray, Spokesperson, 09437571547

Written by janjagriti

August 27, 2010 at 4:02 am

Do Not Renew POSCO MoU

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To:  Mr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India; Mr. Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Orissa; Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Environment and Forests; Ms. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the National Advisory Council
We write to express our concern at several violations of legal process in the approval of the POSCO project in Orissa, some of which we address below:

1. The Orissa government has violated the Forest Rights Act and the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has chosen to ignore this illegal behavior.

The FRA, which came into force in January 2008, acknowledges the rights of all “forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes” (Section 2(c)) as well as “other traditional forest dwellers” who have for at least seventy-five years prior to December 13, 2005 “primarily resided in” and “depend on the forests or forest land for bona fide livelihood needs” (Section 2(o)). Application of the FRA is mandatory for the POSCO project because approximately three-fourths of the 4,000 acres sanctioned for the POSCO steel plant in Jagatsinghpur district is officially classified as forest land. Cultivation on this land has been the primary source of livelihood of local forest dwellers, most of whom have lived here for generations.

Section 4(5) of the FRA mandates that “no member of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dweller shall be evicted or removed from forest land under his occupation till the recognition (of rights) and verification procedure is complete”, and section 5 of the Act empowers Gram Sabhas to protect the forests and to “regulate access to community forest resources.” Within three months after the notification of the FRA, the Gram Sabha of Dhinkia (one of the villages affected by the project), acting under the provisions of Section 6(1) of the FRA, passed a resolution inviting claims for individual and community property rights. Section 6(3) of the FRA requires the state government to constitute a sub-divisional level committee to examine the Gram Sabha resolution and enable a final decision, but the law was violated at this stage by the refusal of the sub-divisional officer to accept the claims filed by the Dhinkia Gram Sabha.

The MoEF initially followed the law and issued a circular in August 2009 to the effect that diversion of forest land for the POSCO project would have to wait until after the rights of the forest dwellers had been recognized and would still require approval by the relevant Gram Sabhas. However, in December 2009, the MoEF granted a conditional final clearance even though it was clear that the requirements of the law were not being met! Given that the Orissa government has routinely used violent force and coercion against its own citizens to clear the way for its “development” projects, the farcical MoEF clearance was essentially an invitation to the state government to use all the repressive means at its disposal to push people out of the way of the corporate giant wishing to exploit the state’s resources.

2. The environmental clearance of the POSCO project is deeply flawed.

The POSCO project consists of three main parts — a steel plant, a captive port at Paradeep and mining operations. However, POSCO applied for environmental clearance of the steel plant and the port separately, perhaps seeking to downplay the ecological impact of the entire project. The MoEF went along with the POSCO ruse and granted a conditional final clearance for the steel plant while also approving the captive port at Paradeep. The approval of the port was based on a highly flawed environmental impact assessment study (EIA) commissioned by the MoEF. The EIA fails to reliably estimate the port’s impact on air and surface water quality, nor does it address the cumulative impact of the steel plant and the port on people and the local ecosystem. Also missed in the EIA is the impact on livelihoods of the local people engaged in farming and fishing who lose their lands and access to the Jatadhari river mouth. The closure of the river mouth would make the region very vulnerable to flooding, another aspect that has been ignored in the EIA.

3. The Orissa government has unleashed large-scale violence to push through the POSCO project.

The POSCO project has faced serious resistance from the affected people ever since its Indian subsidiary signed an MoU with the Orissa government. Despite the grave livelihood threat that the project posed, opposition to the project has stayed well within the parameters of the law. However, the state has hardly functioned as a representative of the people and a custodian of its rights, and has worked more or less as a POSCO agent. In the process, it has torn the FRA to shreds and ridden roughshod over fundamental human rights guaranteed by the Indian constitution such as the right to life and freedom from torture. The numerous instances of rights violations reported against the police include beatings, arrests, shootings and torture of (suspected) anti-POSCO protestors as well as filing of false cases against them to limit their movement.

Earlier this year, Nuagaon, Dhinkia and Govindpur Gram Sabhas passed resolutions reasserting their rights under the FRA and rejecting the diversion of forest land – their primary source of livelihood – for the POSCO project. However, the environment ministry is yet to withdraw its conditional clearance, which, if not outrightly illegal certainly contravenes the spirit of the FRA. We strongly urge you to ensure proper implementation of the FRA and put into action your oft-stated goal of participatory and inclusive development. Toward this end, we also urge you to not renew the POSCO MoU when it expires on June 22, 2010.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

URL TO SIGN PETITION:  http://www.petitiononline.com/p210610/petition.html

Written by janjagriti

June 22, 2010 at 3:58 am

SECOND LETTER TO THE HON’BLE PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA

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ON THE ONGOING POLICE ATTACKS ON PEACEFUL DISSENTERS IN ORISSA

17 May 2010

New Delhi

To

Dr Manmohan Singh

Hon’ble Prime Minister of the Republic of India

Sub: Appeal to immediately intervene in Jajpur and Jagatsingpur districts of Orissa where police and paramilitary forces are crushing India’s democratic values in broad daylight

Sir,

We, a group of concerned citizens, are shocked and anguished at the current situation in Jajpur and Jagatsingpur districts of Orissa where police and paramilitary forces have been sent by the state government to crush people’s democratic dissent in the most undemocratic and unbecoming way.

In blatant disregard towards Constitutional values, the state government of Orissa on 15 May 2010 sent at least 40 platoons of police force to Balitutha in Jagatsingpur district – the entry place for the proposed POSCO project area – where hundreds of villagers of the PPSS (POSCO Pratirodh Sangharsh Samiti) were sitting in a peaceful demonstration since 26 January 2010 to express their dissent against the proposed plant, which is a fundamental right of the people going to be affected by the plant.

They are also defending their rights under the Forest Rights Act 2006, which the UPA government terms as a historic Act to ‘correct a historical injustice’, which the Orissa government has blatantly violated.

Instead of coming to dialogue with the people – as they should in any democracy – the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police rather led the forces with a well-planned attack on peaceful demonstrators, in which the temporary shelter at the demonstration site was set on fire and peaceful protesters were mercilessly beaten and fired with rubber and plastic bullets by the police.

More than 100 villagers, including women, are reported to have been injured in this unprovoked attack by the state. The police have also used shotguns – contrary to what they claim – besides firing rubber and plastic bullets. This is evident in the fact that dozens among the injured are writhing in pain with splinter wounds in Balitutha village at the moment, and no medical help is at sight due to the forced blockade by the police. The forces – who behaved more like hired goons led by officers in responsible positions attacking peaceful villagers – also dragged women by the hair and beat them up badly, resulting in severe injuries.

The presence of massive police force in the area shows the state’s desperation to facilitate corporate businesses in exchange of the country’s valuable natural resources, peoples’ secured lives and livelihoods. This is absolutely undemocratic and unnecessary. We are grieved to note that such moves by the state smack of trading basic democratic values and people’s fundamental rights for corporate interests, and are not at all in the national interest in any way.

In another act of excess and terror, the Kalinganagar area where a TATA steel plant is proposed by the state government is under siege by the forces since 30 March 2010. Villages have been destroyed, people have been forced to move out and take refuge in the forest, and no one – journalists, medical teams, or activists – is allowed to go in there.

It is extremely shocking to learn that one tribal man, named Lakshman Jamuda (55), was killed and many severely injured in police firing in Kalinganagar on 12 May 2010. To hush up the incriminating act of the state government, the police took away Jamuda’s body to Puri and got it cremated by one of his distant relatives, Lalmohan, instead of handing over his body to the immediate family members. Later, Lalmohan confessed to the media that he was made to sign on a blank paper by the police at gun point.

How can such acts of atrocities and excess be justified in a democracy? This is certainly not how a democracy should behave; and we strongly condemn such acts of excess and terror!

Therefore, we the undersigned, request you to intervene at the earliest to uphold people’s faith in democracy and their rights to democratic resistance, and withdraw the police forces from these areas immediately. After establishing peace in these areas, the state should come to dialogue with the people of Jagatsingpur and Jajpur who are peacefully resisting to protect their lands, resources and identity – i.e., fundamental rights of citizens in any democracy.

Yours sincerely,

  1. Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, New Delhi
  2. Medha Patkar, NAPM
  3. Arundhati Roy, Writer and Activist, New Delhi
  4. Sandeep Pandey, NAPM
  5. B Ramakrishna Raju, NAPM, Andhra Pradesh
  6. Praful Samantara, NAPM and Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Orissa
  7. Meher Engineer, Academic, Kolkata
  8. Ashok Chaudhury, NFFPFW, New Delhi
  9. Subrat Kumar Sahu, Independent Filmmaker, New Delhi
  10. Sanjay Bosu Mallick, NFFPFW
  11. Madhumita Dutta, Vettiverr Collective, Chennai
  12. Nityanand Jayaraman, Journalist, Chennai
  13. Shweta Narayan, Community Environmental Monitoring, Chennai
  14. Dr Karen Coelho, Academic, Chennai
  15. Shazia Nigar, Delhi University and NAPM, New Delhi
  16. Soumitra Ghosh, NFFPFW – North Bengal Regional Committee, Siliguri, West Bengal
  17. Mamata Dash, Researcher and Activist, NFFPFW, New Delhi
  18. Amit Sengupta, Journalist, New Delhi
  19. Satya Sivaraman, Journalist, New Delhi
  20. Ravi Hemadri, the Other Media, New Delhi
  21. Manshi Asher, Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh
  22. Shalini Gera, Friends of South Asia, Delhi
  23. Shibayan Raha, New Delhi
  24. Madhu Sarin, Researcher and Activist, Chandigarh
  25. Nandini Sundar, Professor of Sociology, Delhi University
  26. Saswati Swetlana, New Delhi
  27. Ashish Fernandes, Bangalore
  28. Amar Kanwar, Independent Filmmaker, New Delhi
  29. B Karthik Navayan, Advocate, Hyderabad
  30. Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center
  31. Madhuresh Kumar, NAPM
  32. Maj Gen (Retd) S G Vombatkere, NAPM
  33. Rashida Bee, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
  34. Champa Devi Shukla, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
  35. Syed M Irfan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
  36. Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action
  37. Satinath Sarangi, Bhopal Group for Information and Action
  38. Safreen Khan, Children Against Dow Carbide
  39. Kanchi Kohli, Kalpavriksh, New Delhi
  40. Latha Jishnu, Journalist, New Delhi
  41. Chanda Asani, Academic, Jaipur
  42. K P Sasi, Independent Filmmaker, Bangalore
  43. Anivar Aravind, Moving Republic, Bangalore
  44. Ravi Chellam, Bangalore
  45. Sunil, National Vice-President, Samajvadi Jana Parishad
  46. Sanjay Joshi, Gorakhpur Film Festival
  47. Sebastian Rodrigues, Goa
  48. Shankar Gopalkrishnan, Campaign for Survival and Dignity, New Delhi
  49. Sirisha Naidu, Assistant Professor of Economics, Wright State University, OH, USA
  50. Ranjana Padhee, Researcher and Activist, New Delhi
  51. K Babu Rao, Hyderabad
  52. Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Human Rights Activist and Writer, Delhi
  53. Manoranjan Mohanty, Academic, New Delhi
  54. Md Qanit B Takmeel, National Institute of Technology, Rourkela
  55. Anand Patwardan, Filmmaker, Mumbai
  56. Nivedita Dash, Journalist, New Delhi
  57. V Rukmini Rao, Gramya Resource Centre for Women, Secunderabad
  58. Vimalbhai, Matu People’s Organization, Uttarakhand
  59. Amit Kumar Dhiman, Mohali, Punjab
  60. Pradeep Kumar, Pathankot, Punjab
  61. Mohan Bhagat, Maryland, USA
  62. Shankar Chellam, Houston, Texas, USA
  63. Anand Mazgoankar, NAPM
  64. Karavali Karnataka Janaabhivriddhi Vedike, Karnataka
  65. Krishi Bhoomi Samrakshana Samiti, Karnataka
  66. Souparna Lahiri, NFFPFW, New Delhi
  67. Sayantoni Dutta, Researcher, New Delhi
  68. Piyush Sethia, Farmer and Activist, Salem, Tamil Nadu
  69. Kavita Srivastava, National Secretary, PUCL
  70. Lakshmi Premkumar, Researcher, Chennai
  71. Priya Jain, New Delhi
  72. Hartman de Souza, Journalist, Goa
  73. S Jeevan Kumar, President, Human Rights Forum, Hyderabad
  74. V S Krishna, Secretary, Human Rights Forum, Hyderabad
  75. Gurpreet Sidhu, People Tree, New Delhi
  76. Nandini Oza, Writer and Activist, Pune
  77. Sridhar Iyer, Mumbai
  78. Shaweta Anand, Journalist and Researcher, New Delhi
  79. Harsh Dobhal, Human Rights Activist, New Delhi
  80. Praful Bidwai, Columnist and Writer, New Delhi
  81. Preeti Sampat,Scholar and Activist

and many more concerned citizens

Written by janjagriti

May 18, 2010 at 4:10 am

PRESS RELEASE URGENT! STOP POLICE ATTACKS ON PEACEFUL PROTESTORS IN ORISSA

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15 May 2010

New Delhi

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the unprovoked firing and arson carried out by the Orissa state police against a dharna of farmers and fisher folk opposed to the proposed POSCO steel project in Jagatsingpur district.

As per latest reports, today over 100 people have been injured and many shops and houses in Balitutha village, the site of the dharna, have been set on fire by the policemen.  Around 40 divisions of policemen were involved in the operation, which continues even now as we write this. Hundreds of villagers belonging to the PPSS (POSCO Pratirodh Sangharsh Samiti) have been sitting in a peaceful dharna since 26 January 2010 to express their dissent against the proposed plant.

It is also outrageous to note that the atrocities and arson by the police at Balitutha at the moment is being led by the SP of the district while chief minister Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar is issuing statements like “We are for peaceful industrialization” to the media. Naveen Patnaik is known for his ruthless manner in which he has dealt with democratic resistances in the past 10 years in the state, in which many innocent people have lost their lives to police firing and other forms of violence perpetrated by the state.

Prior to today’s police action, there was already an economic blockage imposed by the state administration of the villages earmarked for land acquisition and where resistance is the strongest. There is a strong fear that any police raid on the villagers to oust them from their land will result in the loss of innocent lives in an area where thousands were already killed when the Orissa Super Cyclone hit the area just a decade ago. Nevertheless, the area is endowed with rich natural resources and has a prosperous economy of its own, and the local communities – as they have expressed it over and over again – do not want to trade their resources, economy, and cultural identities for mere corporate greed.

We believe that, to crush peaceful dissent in such a brutal manner can only serve to undermine Indian democracy and push large sections of the Indian population to the point of desperation. At no point, in their struggle for over five years, have the anti-POSCO protestors indulged in any violent activities and have instead set an example to the rest of the country on how to carry out a democratic struggle based solely on the mass support of ordinary men and women.

We appeal to all Indian political parties and concerned citizens to oppose the Orissa government’s ill-considered and draconian action against the anti-POSCO protestors and demand the immediate withdrawal of police forces from the area. It is only through peaceful negotiations that a resolution can be found and the common people’s crumbling faith in Indian democracy restored.

Yours sincerely,

  1. Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, New Delhi
  2. Medha Patkar, NAPM
  3. Arundhati Roy, Writer and Activist, New Delhi
  4. Sandeep Pandey, NAPM
  5. B Ramakrishna Raju, NAPM
  6. Praful Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Orissa
  7. Meher Engineer, Academic, Kolkata
  8. Ashok Chaudhury, NFFPFW, New Delhi
  9. Subrat Kumar Sahu, Independent Filmmaker, New Delhi
  10. Sanjay Bosu Mallick, NFFPFW
  11. Madhumita Dutta, Vettiverr Collective, Chennai
  12. Nityanand Jayaraman, Journalist, Chennai
  13. Shweta Narayan, Community Environmental Monitoring, Chennai
  14. Dr Karen Coelho, Academic, Chennai
  15. Shazia Nigar, Delhi University and NAPM, New Delhi
  16. Soumitra Ghosh, NFFPFW – North Bengal Regional Committee, Siliguri, West Bengal
  17. Mamata Dash, Researcher and Activist, NFFPFW, New Delhi
  18. Amit Sengupta, Journalist, New Delhi
  19. Satya Sivaraman, Journalist, New Delhi
  20. Ravi Hemadri, the Other Media, New Delhi
  21. Manshi Asher, Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh
  22. Shalini Gera, Friends of South Asia, Delhi
  23. Shibayan Raha, New Delhi
  24. Madhu Sarin, Researcher and Activist, Chandigarh
  25. Nandini Sundar, Professor of Sociology, Delhi University
  26. Saswati Swetlana
  27. Ashish Fernandes, Bangalore
  28. Amar Kanwar, Independent Filmmaker, New Delhi
  29. B Karthik Navayan, Advocate, Hyderabad
  30. Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center
  31. Madhuresh Kumar, NAPM
  32. Maj Gen (Retd) S G Vombatkere
  33. Rashida Bee, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
  34. Champa Devi Shukla, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
  35. Syed M Irfan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
  36. Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action
  37. Satinath Sarangi, Bhopal Group for Information and Action
  38. Safreen Khan, Children Against Dow Carbide
  39. K P Sasi, Independent Filmmaker, Bangalore
  40. Anivar Aravnd, ICT Professional, Moving Republic, Bangalore
  41. Kanchi Kohli, Kalpavriksh, New Delhi
  42. Latha Jishnu, Journalist, New Delhi
  43. Chanda Asani, Academic, Jaipur

…and many more concerned citizens

Written by janjagriti

May 15, 2010 at 12:43 pm