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Posco’s chances dim as another panel says no

Nitin Sethi, TNN, Nov 3, 2010, 01.41am IST
NEW DELHI: The deck’s being stacked against Posco. In the biggest blow yet to the South Korean giant’s Rs 54,000-crore project in Orissa, a key committee of the environment ministry has recommended the withdrawal of forest clearance to the multinational’s plan to build an integrated steel plant. If accepted by environment minister Jairam Ramesh, the recommendation of the forest advisory committee (FAC) could sound the death-knell for the country’s biggest FDI project. What adds significance to the FAC’s red signal is the fact that it’s a statutory body and Ramesh has rarely overturned its recommendations. 

The report comes on the back of two adverse reports, with Ramesh citing violations of envirionmental laws by the Korean promoters of the mega industrial project and the Orissa government.

If the content of the report of the FAC, about to be submitted to the ministry, marks a blow, the timing was hardly propitious either. It came on a day when Congress chief Sonia Gandhi identified environment protection as one of the party’s top concerns.

The environment ministry, remarkably proactive under Ramesh, had earlier stayed the clearance for Posco after the N C Saxena panel had pointed to violations of the Forest Rights Act by the Orissa government while carrying out acquisition of land for the project. The environment ministry awaited the report of the Meena Gupta committee set up specifically to review Posco for compliance with all green laws.

Three out of the four members of the Gupta committee pointed to grave violations of FRA and other green laws as well as collusion and fabrication by the state government in an attempt to secure the forest clearance.

The report was referred by the ministry to the FAC to take a view on the forest-related violations of the project. The brief for the FAC was clear. If it agreed with the Saxena and Gupta panel reports that the Orissa government had not settled rights of forest dwellers under the FRA and evidence for the same was not presented to environment ministry, it would have to withdraw the forest clearance as per the ministry’s August 2009 directive.

The FAC, which has three non-official members on board and is loaded with forest officials, initially dithered from following the parent ministry’s directive. It decided to throw the ball in the tribal affairs ministry’s court. But an internal review within the FAC of its stand made it clear, sources said, that there was ample evidence of violations of FRA and the ministry’s directive made it an imperative that the forest clearance be withdrawn.

Though the FAC is only an advisory body, Ramesh could now find it hard to go against the recommendations of the statutory FAC and two other special committees–one under NAC member N C Saxena and another under ex-environment secretary Meena Gupta. It would also be difficult for Congress to sidestep violations of an Act that it had just recently used in the Vedanta case to prop-up Rahul Gandhi’s image as a pro-tribal leader.

The majority report of the Meena Gupta committee had also pointed to serious violations of other green laws–the CRZ rules and the environmental clearance regulations. These are being assessed by different divisions of the ministry separately and sources in the environment ministry said the nature of violations seemed to be as serious in these cases as well.

Posco may not be seeing the end of the road to the current site location yet but the FAC’s recommendation will definitely make it difficult for the government to now allow the project in its current shape.

The Orissa government, if it wants to help Posco, could still undertake the settlement of rights under the FRA before applying for a fresh forest clearance with environment ministry but it has in a written submission to the Centre challenging the FRA itself and, playing the law-and-order card, has said that undertaking FRA processes again could lead to violence in the state.

The Orissa government had not been able to settle the forest rights of the people on the location under the Forest Rights Act. It has not been able to secure the mandatory approval of the gram sabhas (village councils) permitting diversion of the forest land. Instead, the two environment ministry panels had stated that the state government had presented fabricated documents to claim it had done so.

Sources said while difference of opinion had existed between the FAC members at the initial stage, it was accepted that Posco had failed in compliance of its conditions laid out while giving the conditional forest clearance earlier. The conditions included one requiring Orissa to furnish proof that FRA had been followed.

Orissa was unable to provide the documentary proof and instead tried to skirt around the requirements of FRA by stating that it had followed another process to do the same.

Read more: Posco’s chances dim as another panel says no – The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/Poscos-chances-dim-as-another-panel-says-no/articleshow/6862119.cms#ixzz14CR4r0ov

Written by janjagriti

November 6, 2010 at 11:31 am

Posted in News

Conflict of interest: Gupta was environment secy when Posco was cleared Read more: Conflict of interest: Gupta was environment secy when Posco was cleared

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Nitin Sethi, TNN, Oct 19, 2010, 04.34am IST

NEW DELHI: Three of four members on the Meena Gupta committee have written to environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh that differences between them and the chairperson may have arisen as Gupta was a retired IAS officer from Orissa cadre who had also been environment secretary at the Centre.

In a letter jointly despatched by retired forest officer Devendra Pandey, researcher Urmila Pingle and civil rights lawyer V Suresh, the three have virtually suggested a conflict of interest in Gupta’s role. They put their reservations on Gupta’s dissenting views on record a day before submitting their report on Posco separately.

Gupta had served as secretary, environment and forests, when environmental clearance was given to Posco under the Environment Protection Act. Gupta in her report noted the committee was not mandated to review the legality of clearances but only whether government and the South Korean company had followed conditions laid down in the permissions.

The three members differed, saying they were indeed authorised to investigate if the project had been pursued in compliance of green laws, including the manner in which green clearances were granted.

The three noted in the letter to the minister that they were unanimous in their view and the differences between them and the chair were fundamental in nature and could not be resolved despite their best efforts.

In the majority report, they have called the entire process of granting environmental clearances as farcical and illegal and recommended that it be revoked, which would imply scrapping the project as it stands today. Gupta, on the other hand, has recommended the project be allowed to continue and additional conditions be imposed in light of lacunae found by her.

Gupta’s report has tried to, just as Ramesh did on Monday, play down differences with the other three. She has stated, “On some of the issues, there was agreement on what the conclusion should be, but not on the reasons leading to the conclusion.”

While releasing the two reports, Ramesh too said the difference was merely of interpretation of the facts and that the two reports were otherwise aligned. The three members later met the minister to argue that differences did not seem amenable to resolution.

The release of the report by the minister was also marred by an unpleasant moment with one of the three members openly opposing the `gag order’ by the minister on the committee after submission of the report.

Sources said the committee members had earlier raised concerns about the possible conflict of interest in having Gupta as chair when she had been the senior most bureaucrat in the environment ministry at the time Posco was granted a clearance.

Read more: Conflict of interest: Gupta was environment secy when Posco was cleared – The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Conflict-of-interest-Gupta-was-environment-secy-when-Posco-was-cleared/articleshow/6770917.cms#ixzz12mGayb1u

Written by janjagriti

October 19, 2010 at 5:01 am

Posted in News

PPSS Statement on MoEF Committee Report

POSCO PRATIRODH SANGRAM SAMITI

Gadkujang, Nuagaon, Dhinkia Gram Panchayats, Erasama Block, Jagatsinghpur District, Orissa

MAJORITY OF POSCO ENQUIRY COMMITTEE CONFIRMS THAT POSCO PROJECT IS ILLEGAL

Today, three of the four members of the committee set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests confirmed that the POSCO project is illegal and that all of its clearances were obtained by breaking the law. The Committee has also found that the project has potentially very dangerous impacts on issues like water, air pollution, and the coastline, and none of this was ever properly evaluated. After a detailed discussion of the huge number of criminal actions by the company and the Orissa government, the Committee says (in the conclusion of the report):

“The POSCO project is an example of how a mirage of “development” can be used in an attempt to bypass the law. Such attempts, if allowed to succeed, will result in neither development nor environmental protection, but merely in profiteering. This will cause immeasurable harm to the nation and to the rule of law and justice in our society.”

We particularly draw attention to the fact that the majority found that:

• The Orissa government and the Central government have violated the Forest Rights Act and tried to grab forest land that belongs to the people. This is the second official committee that has reached this conclusion.

• The project could cause environmental devastation particularly in regard to water, air pollution, coastal damage, danger of industrial disasters in case of cyclones, etc., all of which was ignored by the government.

• POSCO suppressed facts and tried to get around the requirements of law.

• The environmental, forest and coastal regulation clearances obtained by the project were all illegal and should all be revoked.

• The forest clearance can only be given subject to the recognition of rights and the consent of the gram sabha under the Forest Rights Act.

Those who keep talking of the POSCO project as one of “national importance” should answer these questions: would any other country in the world tolerate such violations of their law? Would South Korea tolerate an Indian company grabbing their land, breaking their laws and threatening to cause an environmental disaster? Is this what development means – robbing thousands of their lands and threatening lakhs with water shortage and other catastrophes?

As for the dissenting report of Ms. Meena Gupta, her position reflects her own interests. She was the Secretary that granted the environment clearance, and asking her to review it is like asking a thief to don a police uniform. Naturally she has said that all the clearances should continue. Her report is full of distortions, such as claiming that there are only 700 families in the area (when over 4,000 will lose their lands and/or homes). She tries to cover up crimes by saying that it does not

matter if the law was broken; all that is required is to impose some additional “conditions.”

We call upon the Central government to heed the voice of the people and the findings of the majority report, withdraw all clearances and cancel this unjust, illegal and brutal project.

Abhay Sahoo, Chairperson, PPSS

Written by janjagriti

October 19, 2010 at 4:52 am

Posted in News

Pro and anti-Posco groups to boycott RPDAC meeting

BS Reporter / Kolkata/ Bhubaneswar July 08, 2010, 0:38 IST

The meeting of the Rehabilitation and Peripheral Development Advisory Committee (RPDAC), convened by Jagatsinghpur district administration to discuss about compensation package of the Posco project affected persons has suffered a set back with both anti and pro-Posco outfits deciding to stay away from it.

Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti, the outfit agitating against the Posco project has decided to boycott the RPDAC meeting citing the indifference of chief minister towards owes of local villagers as the reason for its decision to stay away from the meeting. Besides, it said, as non-bailable warrants were pending against some of its leaders, their presence in the meeting would not be desirable

Similarly, United Action Committee, a purportedly pro-Posco outfit, has decided to boycott the meeting to express its displeasure over the “half-hazard” socio-economic survey of the project site area in which neither the local people were consulted nor the real loss of property including the betel vines, prawn gheris and other immovable assets were reflected.The RPDAC meeting has been convened by the Jagatsinghpur district administration to discuss about the compensation package for the affected persons of the project and was expected to be attended by all stake holders including the local MP, MLAs and other elected peoples’ representatives, who either belonged to the PPSS or UAC camp.

PPSS conducted a meeting at Dhinkia today where Abhya Sahoo, president of the outfit, discussed with the villagers about the participation of local peoples’ representatives and village leaders in the RPDAC meeting. The villagers, however, suggested boycott of the meeting stating that chief minister Naveen Patnaik has not kept his commitment to visit the Posco project site area and see the plight of the villagers before finalization of the compensation package.

Meanwhile, the district administration has extended invitation to sarpanch, panchayat samiti members of three panchayats, Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadkujang and social activists Magu Nayak and Sailbala Barik of Dhinkia village to participate in the meeting.

PPSS leader, Sahoo said, when PPSS is demanding shifting of the Posco project out of the area, how our representatives can attend this meeting to finalize the compensation packages”.

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/proanti-posco-groups-to-boycott-rpdac-meeting/400698/

Written by janjagriti

July 8, 2010 at 5:03 am

Posted in News

Police lathi-charge anti-Posco protestors

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Paradip (Orissa), June 2 (PTI) Police today lathi-charged anti-Posco agitators trying to prevent the socio-economic and forest survey, which resumed after four days at the project site for the Rs 52,000 crore mega steel plant.

Batons were used to disperse the agitators at Mathasahi village in Nuagaon panchayat area after they attempted to stop the survey work, officials said.

Nuagaon Sarpanch Bhaskar Swain claimed that he along with five other persons was injured in the police action.

The police, however, said none was injured in the police action.

After the dispersal of the protestors, teams from the Jagatsinghpur district carried out the survey at Mathasahi to assess socio-economic parameters of the villagers and count betel-vine plantations and fruit-bearing trees that would be affected by the project, Additional District Magistrate Saroj Kanta Choudhury said.

http://www.ptinews.com/news/685639_Police-lathi-charge-anti-Posco-protestors

Written by janjagriti

June 2, 2010 at 10:39 am

Posted in News

Posco survey work begins today

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BS Reporter / Kolkata/ Bhubaneswar May 25, 2010, 0:41 IST

With the talks between the leaders of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), the organization spearheading the anti-Posco agitation in the state, and the Revenue Divisional Commissioner yet to take off, the Paradip MP Bibhuprasad Tarai has sought the intervention of chief minister Naveen Pattnaik to stop the socio-economic survey for the Posco project which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

The district administration, meanwhile, has geared up to start the survey work at the proposed Posco site and the process is expected to continue for about two weeks.

The district collector Narayan Jena, however, clarified that the survey work will not be taken up in Dhinkia, the stronghold of PPSS. The survey will be conducted in the rest areas for which the United Action Committee, a purportedly local based pro-Posco organization, has agreed to extend its cooperation, he added.

The local MP, Tarai said, “There was proposal that 5 representatives of PPSS would hold talks with the RDC but this has not yet started. I have requested the PPSS leaders to list the names of representatives to meet RDC on this issue”, said Tarai.

“I want smooth discussions between the PPSS leaders and the district administration to find out the solution. The decision of the administration to start survey from Tuesday without the consent of the villagers would aggravate the situation. The discussions between PPSS leaders and the administration would be meaningless, if survey would start before the talks”, he added.

Earlier, the chief minister had convened a meeting with the local MP and MLAs to resolve the Posco issue and had requested Tarai to negotiate with anti-Posco activists. It was decided that RDC and the district administration will meet the representatives of PPSS in the presence of Tarai to sort out all out all issuesregarding the Posco project.

When contacted Special Land Acquisition Officer of Paradip, Nrusingh Swain said, “The administration has taken all arrangements to start survey work at Nuagaon and Gadkujang panchayats from Tuesday. No information has come from the chief minister’s office to stop Posco survey work till now”.

The administration has formed six teams to expedite the survey work. Each team has 5 members under the supervision of either a tahsildar or additional tahsildar.

They will verify the last survey conducted by the district administration in 2008 and assess the valuation of betel vines and other crops.

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/posco-survey-work-begins-today/395959/

Written by janjagriti

May 24, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Posted in News

Orissa withdraws police cover from Posco site

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Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 0035 hrs IST
Updated: Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 0035 hrs ISTBhubaneswar: In a significant development, the Jagatsinghpur district administration on Wednesday lifted prohibitory orders from the proposed Posco site and withdrew the police force from the area. The district administration had clamped section 144 of the Cr PC in an area of 3 km radius around the Balitutha gate on May 15 and cleared the road blockage set up by anti-Posco groups.

The district administration’s step is a fallout of the top level discussion held at the state secretariat on Tuesday. The chief minister’s principal secretary, Bijya Patnaik, reviewed the situation at the Posco site since the May 15 police action.

After the prohibitory order was lifted and the police forces were withdrawn, a political rally was held at Balitutha by six political parties including the CPI, CPM and Rastriya Janata Dal to protest against the police excess on anti-Posco activists.

The rally was attended by over 1,000 villagers from the three gram panchayats – Dhinkia, Gobindpur and Nuagoa—which forms the core area of Posco’s 12 million tonne steel project.

CPI national general secretary AB Bardhan addressed the rally along with leaders of other political parties. The leaders condemned the police action against the villagers facing displacement due to the Posco project.

The six-party protest rally has emboldened the Posco Pratirodha Sangram Smiti (PPSS), the outfit that is spearheading the resistance movement against Posco’s Rs 52,000 crore steel project.

“We will soon re-capture Balitutha,” said PPSS chief Abhaya Sahoo. PPSS activists, who had put up a road blockade at Balitutha denying entry to the Posco sites, were driven out by the police four days ago.

Meanwhile, chief minister Naveen Patnaik has convened a meeting of MPs and MLAs of Jagatsinghpur on Thursday to discuss the Posco project.

http://www.financialexpress.com/news/Orissa-withdraws-police-cover-from-Posco-site/621174/

Written by janjagriti

May 21, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Posted in News