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MoEF/MoTA Committee Report of visit to Jagatsinghpur

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Report of visit to Jagatsinghpur (site of proposed POSCO project), Orissa,23-24 July 2010

4 August 2010


Three members of the MoEF/MoTA Committee (Arupjyoti Saikia, Ravi Rebbapragada and Ashish Kothari) went to Jagatsinghpur as part of the MoEF/MoTA FRA Committee’s study tour of Orissa. Apart from Jagatsinghpur, the study tour also included a full day public consultation in Bhubaneshwar, discussions with senior officials of the Orissa government, visits to Mayurbhanj district (including Simlipal Tiger Reserve and some community forest protection areas), and discussions with district officials (a separate report on these is being prepared).

At Jagatsinghpur, the team carried out the following:

  1. Discussions with the District Collector and senior officials of various departments.
  2. Perusal of land and forest records, to the extent made available at the district HQ and locally during the site visit.
  3. Perusal of documents available with communities as evidence of their claims to the forest land.
  4. Discussions with villagers at 6 places (at all of which local officials were also present): Dhinkia/Patna and Govindpur of Dhinkia panchayat (including Sarpanch Sisir Kr. Mahapatra), Nuagaon panchayat (two separate congregations of people, hereafter called Nuagaon-I and Nuagaon-II) (including Sarpanch Bhaskar Swain), Nolia Sahi and Gadkujang of Gadkujang panchayat (including Sarpanch Nakulananda Sahu).
  5. Visit to the forest lands proposed for diversion for the proposed POSCO project.

The Committee also obtained a number of documents subsequent to the field visit, as evidence of the long-standing uses and dependence of the local villages on the forest land proposed for diversion. Some of this has not been in the public domain till date, but would surely have been available to official agencies if they had sought it.

At all the places visited and people spoken to, the discussion was largely limited to the status of implementation of the FRA process. As far as possible, the team avoided discussion on the pros and cons of the proposed POSCO project, as also on the extent of local opposition or support to it. These issues were not in its mandate, even though both villagers and officials brought them up off and on.

Main findings

1. The District Collector and other officials told us that implementation of the FRA has been diligently carried out in the district, with extensive awareness programmes carried out in 2008, and FRCs formed in 1291 villages. Only 47 ST families, have made IFR claims, of which 45 have been granted. No CFR claims have been made. The District Collector categorically said that there are no OTFDs in the district, and no claims received from people identifying themselves as OTFDs. Since, according to the officials, there are no claimants in the area to be affected by the POSCO project (where also, FRCs were formed, as per palli sabha documents given to the team), the requirement of gram sabha consent for forest land diversion does not apply.

2. The proposed POSCO project requires 1253.225 hectares of forest land. According to officials, what is now forest land was earlier revenue land, and does not have traditional dependence of local people, whose use of this land for paan cultivation and other purposes is recent (last 20-30 years). Officials however accept that the villages themselves are several generations old, with some hamlets being more recent. Villagers claim, however, what whatever the status of the land, much of it (other than that used for paan cultivation) had actual natural vegetation including forest, till it was degraded, and finally replaced by plantations after the cyclones. Old records (mentioned below) appear to corraborate their claims.

3. The team was shown settlement records of the 1950s, but when it repeatedly requested the district officials for records of the 1930s, these could not be supplied, as they were reportedly in Cuttack (Jagatsinghpur district was only recently carved out of Cuttack district). Additional documents pertaining to the then Bardhaman State (within which this area fell), were also not available at the district HQ. They were however subsequently obtained by the team, with the help of NGOs and researchers. It is important to note that if the official agencies had been pro-active, they too would have had access to these documents.

4. At the villages, the team was told that FRCs were formed and claims made, but it is not clear what happened to these claims. Residents of Nuagaon-I said they filed claims (approximately 250, respectively) and sent them to the tehsildar, who returned them saying there were no eligible OTFDs. No further process was carried out. Residents of Nolia Sahi said they filled in about 280 claims and sent them to the panchayat secretary Sachin Raut, but no further process was carried out; the Sarpanch of Gadkuchang, within which Nolia Sahi falls, expressed ignorance of this. Residents of Dhinkia/Patna have not filed the claims, as they were at the epicenter of the anti-POSCO agitation (there are reportedly cases against some named individuals and “800 others” of Dhinkia, so there is fear that anyone can be arrested). In Govindpur, Nuagaon-II, and Gadkuchang, there appeared to be very little knowledge of the FRA; no-one seemed to have realized (or been told) that they could qualify as OTFDs and make their claims for rights to the forest land.

5. The district administration has made no pro-active moves to identify potential claimants and provide them documents that could help determine their eligibility. This is despite the knowledge that a lot of people lost their belongings and whatever documents they may have had, in the supercyclone that hit this part of the Orissa coast in 1999. It is only on the basis of not having received claims (according to the officials; it is unclear what happened to the claim forms sent to the tehsildar in the case of Nuagaon-I), that the administration has concluded that there are no OTFDs.

5. Though specific claims may not have been filed or may have gone missing, Dhinkia and Nuagaon palli sabhas have passed resolutions stating their long-standing residence in the area, their traditional dependence on the forest land, their eligibility of rights under the FRA, and their refusal to grant consent to the proposed diversion of land for POSCO. Copies of these are available with the team. Interestingly, these palli sabhas were called after a notice was issued by the district administration, and are mentioned in the District Collector’s letter No. 139 dt. 23.2.2010 (sent to MoEF by the state government as evidence of the absence of eligible claimants under FRA), but the resolutions rejecting the proposed diversion of forest land are not mentioned in this letter. Nor have the palli sabha resolutions been sent to MoEF.

6. The team went into the question of whether OTFDs exist in the area or not, in great detail. Records available on site or subsequently from Bhubaneshwar (including reports of the Uchhab Naik, ex-zamindary settlement reports, forest settlement reports, rent receipts of families, and nistar records), from the early decades of the 20th century, were perused, with local translation help. Several documents were clearly from these sites, and referred to the lands now proposed for diversion. Observations were made of physical evidence of occupation of these villages, and it was clear that they are quite old (Dhinka, for instance, has a cooperative since 1925). At several sites, elderly people were asked about their childhood memories of their families’ livelihoods, and all of them said that their fathers did paan cultivation, and there was extraction of firewood, other NTFP, and graizing on the common lands including the forest lands slated for diversion. The team has names of the specific elders who testified to this (not named here, as there are possible repercussions in the atmosphere of tension that the area is under). The team also observed that if there were villages in the area before 1930, there must have been dependence on the surrounding commons (much of which is forest land), since that is a universal feature of traditional settlements in India.

7. OTFDs are defined in the FRA in the following way: “any member or community who has for at least three generations prior to the 13th day of December, 2005 primarily resided in and who depend on the forest or forests land for bona fide livelihood needs.” The team notes the difference in grammar between the requirement of residence (which implies that residence must be 3 generations old), and that of dependence (which implies that there must be current dependence). According to this, taking the usage in its strict sense, and using the clarification of the term “reside in” and “depend on” by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs in its circular no. 17014/02/2007-PC&V (Vol.III), dated 9 June 2008), it is clear that the residents of these villages are OTFDs. However, even if one takes the requirement to be 75 years for both residence and dependence, available documents and oral evidence suggests that these residents are OTFDs.

8. There is clearly continued usage of the forest land, including for cultivation of paan, collection of minor forest produce (including pandanus flowers for making essence) and fuel, grazing, cashew trees, and other uses.

9. Interestingly, for a patch of forest land close to the land proposed to be diverted for POSCO, palli sabha consent was reportedly sought and obtained by the administration for a IOCL complex. Yet in the case of POSCO the administration is saying that such permission is not needed.

10. The team advised villagers in each of the 6 sites where it met residents, that they may proceed with extending the time frame of their FRCs and carry through the process of filing claims. District officials who were with the team, including the Sub-collector M.D. Mallik, promised to help them with locating relevant documentary evidence. It has subsequently been reported to us that claims have begun to be filed.


Given the above, the team has arrived at the following:

1. There are Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) in the area, contrary to what the district administration is saying. Both documentary and oral evidence exists to this effect. A sample of the documentary evidence has been attached with the letter sent by the Committee to the Minister for Environment and Forests, on 3 August 2010.

2. The FRA process has not been completed, in fact it has not proceeded beyond the initial stages, for various reasons. It is therefore incorrect and misleading for the district administration to conclude that there are no OTFDs “in cultivating possession of the land since 3 generations” in the area. Firstly, this cannot be concluded without having gone through the process of claims; secondly, the FRA provides for dependence on forest land also as a criteria for eligibility, not only “cultivation possession of land”.

3. Some palli sabhas have given resolutions refusing to consent to diversion of forest land on which they are dependent. These palli sabhas were convened by the district administration itself, after receiving instructions relating to the MoEF circular of July 2009, which indicates that the administration was aware of the possible presence of forest rights claimants in the area. (It is interesting that this was done after the District Collector had given the opinion that there are no STs and OTFDs in the project area). To the best of our knowledge these palli sabha resolutions have not been sent by the state government to the MoEF, which is tantamount to deliberate withholding of relevant information/documents. Only the palli sabha resolutions setting up FRCs in March 2008, have been sent to MoEF (which MoEF has asked the state government to translate, in April 2010).

The team’s findings were reported to the district administration on 24 July, and the state Chief Secretary (along with secretaries of all relevant departments) on 27 July 2010. It appears from news reports, however, that the district administration is proceeding with land acquisition and demolition of the paan cultivation of people on forest land. Reportedly this is of families who have consented to such acquisition; however this does not alter the fact that such work is illegal.

The team concludes that:

1. Any work related to the project in this area, such as what has been reportedly started on 27 July 2010, is a violation of the FRA, and of the conditionality laid down by the MoEF in its forest clearance 29 December 2009.

2. The MoEF “final approval” of 29 December 2009 is itself a violation of its circular No. F. No. 11-9/1998-FC (pt), of 30 July 2009 (and therefore of the FRA), requiring FRA completion and gram sabha consent for forest diversion. The fact that this was conditional to completion of the FRA procedures in the area, or that a subsequent (8 January 2010) clarification was issued reiterating this condition, does not change the improper nature of this as a “final approval”.

MoEF is therefore urged to take the following steps:

1. Ask the Orissa government to stop all such work till the required processes under the FRA are completed, and till and if palli sabha consent is obtained.

2. Withdraw the forest clearance provided in December 2009.

Not doing the above would tantamount to not only ignoring the key objective of the FRA of redressing historical injustice, but also heaping new injustice on the residents of these villages.

Report written by:

Ashish Kothari, Ravi Rebbapragada, and Arupjyoti Saikia


Written by janjagriti

August 17, 2010 at 9:00 am

Orissa – Brief Report from Anti-POSCO villages – story of the injured people

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by Partho Sarathi Ray, Sanhati

May 19, 2010

bharat-bardhan-who-was-hit-by-a-rubber-bullet-and-a-shotgun-pellet-on-his-face.JPG gujuri-mohanti-72-who-was-hit-by-three-rubber-bullets-on-her-back-and-behind-her-head.JPG gujuri-mohanti-describing-the-brutalities-on-the-elderly-women.JPG mounabati-das-describing-her-harrowing-ordeal.JPGshantilata-mahapatra-who-was-hit-by-a-shotgun-pellet-and-a-rubber-bullet-on-her-leg.JPG

mounabati-das-with-a-large-subcutaneos-blood-clot-from-a-rubber-bullet.JPGthe-fractured-foot-of-tikki-bardhan-could-not-be-plastered-as-no-medical-treatment-is-available.JPGthe-wound-from-the-pellet-after-it-was-extracted-and-dressed.JPG tikki-bardhan-whose-foot-is-fractured-after-being-hit-by-a-rubber-bullet.JPG

The situation in the three villages of Dhinkia, Gobindapur and Nuagaon is grim. Three days after the 15th May assault by police forces on the peaceful assembly of villagers in Balitutha, nearly every household in these three villages have people who are injured and traumatized. And because since 15th May, all the exit points from the villages, through Balitutha and Trilochanpur have been sealed by the police, and with the threat of arrest looming large on anyone from the villages who step out, nearly no one has received medical treatment for their wounds. With festering wounds and fractured limbs, many people, including the elderly, are suffering their ordeal silently in the confines of their homes.

Balitutha, where the police assault took place on the 15th, is a scene of destruction. The police, exhibiting a disturbing sign of wreaking vengeance, not only burnt down the shamiana under which the dharna was being held for the past five months, but also set fire to all the roadside shops, eateries and thatched houses on one side of the Balitutha bridge. This has been vividly shown on the Oriya television channels. If setting fire to houses and shops becomes an accepted operational practice of the Orissa police, it speaks volumes about the “keepers of law and order” and their political masters in the Orissa government. Now the entire area is teeming with police forces and their special operations vehicles, and they are preventing anyone from the besieged villages from stepping out.

The villagers’ wounds and their description of what happened on 15th April in Balitutha is also a grim testimony of what the state can inflict on peaceful protesters. There are around two hundred injured people in the three villages. Wounds are from rubber bullets, lathis and, something that I had seen for the first time, from pellets fired from shotguns. These are small spherical pellets, like bicycle ball-bearings, which have been fired in thousands. Many people have five or six of these 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, many people are being forced to extract the pellets at home using knifes and blades.

Women seem to have been especially targeted for assault and humiliation. Most of the wounded we saw were women. 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 has a large subcutaneous blood clot from the rubber bullet which hit her thigh and walks around with great difficulty. Tikki Bardhan, whose foot seems to have been fractured after being hit by a rubber bullet, cannot even walk. There has been no doctor to see her and plaster the fractured foot. Her husband, Bharat Bardhan, was hit by a rubber bullet and a shotgun pellet on his face. He barely missed losing his right eye, but the bullet broke a tooth and a blood vessel in his nose because of which he was profusely bleeding from his nose. The shot gun pellet is 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. I extracted the pellet with difficulty from her leg and dressed up the wound and gave her a course of antibiotics which I had taken with me. Gujuri Mahanti, a 72 year old grandmother, has been hit by three rubber bullets on the back of her head, on the small of her back and behind her waist. She finds it difficult 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 around two hours, when they had got up and turned to move away, the police 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 round 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. Their relatives do not know till now what has been their fate.

These stories were repeated in every home. The people are now awaiting an imminent attack on the villages itself which the administration has already threatened. However, they say that these wounds have only strengthened their resolve to resist, and there will be a blood bath if the police enter their villages. But 72 year old Gujuri Mahanti had a question addressed to Naveen Patnaik, “Would he treat his mother in the same way that the police had treated her?” As Naveen Patnaik, with his masters at Tata POSCO, tries to bring “development” to Orissa with rubber bullets and shotgun pellets, this is the question that confronts him from poor village women who are resolved to resist this aggression on their lives and livelihoods.

Written by janjagriti

May 21, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Reports


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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

Police Offensive on Anti-POSCO struggle

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Dear All,

As reported yesterday, 40 platoons of police were deployed near Balitutha in Jagatsinghpur in Orissa where people are resisting ,against POSCO project and are sitting on a protest demo since 26

January 2010. The police force is now marching towards the protest site and the DM of the area is leading the march now (15 May 2010 -10am IST). Some of us have called the SP Debadutta Singh who is at the site now and he says that they will charge the people. When asked why there is a force approaching people, his non-chalant answer was “these people are not allowing the government to enter the area. We will use force today to facilitate the entry of the government officials to the area. I am here and will use the force.”

There are around 700 local people sitting in the dharna at present and their lives alongwith others in the area are in danger. This brutal treatment by the state must be stopped and we all have to do whatever we can to get the force leave the area immediately. Please use all your contacts to help the anti-POSCO activists who have all along shown tremendous strength in fighitng against the steel giant POSCO and the state brutalities. This is an appeal to all human rights organisation across the globe to respond to this situation urgently.

Please call the following people:

1- Superintendent of Police (Debadutta Singh) at 09437094678

2- Naveen Pattnaik, Chief Minister of Orissa

Tel. No.(O) 0674- 2531100,2535100 (FAX)

Tel. No.(R) 0674- 2590299, 2591099,2590844,2591100,2590833

Email :

3- Prime Minister of India – Shri Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of

India, + 91 11 2301 6857

Your urgent action is needed. Let us not let another Kalinganagar,

Kashipur or Narayanpatna happen again.

Written by janjagriti

May 15, 2010 at 7:04 am

Posted in Event Notices, Reports

Abhay Sahu’s interview after release

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Dear Friends,

After 10 months of being imprisoned under false charges, anti POSCO leader Abhay Sahu was released from Choudwar on 21st (August) evening on bail. Please follow the below link to see an interview with him where he proves that his spirit is indomitable.


Written by janjagriti

September 6, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Posted in Reports

Striking While the Iron is Hot

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A case study of the Pohang Steel Company’s (POSCO) proposed project in Orissa

A case study of the Pohang Steel Company’s (POSCO) proposed project in Orissa

Published in February 2009, the case study documents the impacts of POSCO’s proposed iron ore mines, steel plant and port on local communities and their environment. The study describes the ongoing struggle against the project in the backdrop of Orissa government’s frenzied drive to industrialise the state and dispossess the local people of their resources.

Written by janjagriti

April 6, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Reports

Rising power of a collective – everything else looks so small…

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The road to Dhinkia from Bhubaneswar was never so long as it was on 30 November 2008… or so I thought. The idea was to avoid the bad road, our friends advised us to take a longer route. Yes, the road was certainly much better but the journey could never be so eventful. As we were approaching Paradip, we saw hundreds of trucks lined up – I had never seen so many trucks in all of my life till now. They had stopped in protest against an accident that had taken place just that morning leaving one person severely injured. The matter was related to the Paradip Port Trust as the truck was ferrying the materials for the port and the truckers demanded interventions by the company to help the victim…Read more about the anti Posco convention at Dhinkia on 30th November 2008

Written by janjagriti

December 31, 2008 at 4:50 am