Brutal Police Repression Upon Villagers Protesting Against Jindal Steel In Odisha  

  • December 25, 2021

Prashant Paikray, spokesperson, anti-Jindal & anti-POSCO movement in Odisha, gives an update on the recent police repression and the peoples’ struggle against JSW.


Dear Friends,

Greetings from Anti- Jindal & Anti- POSCO Movement, Odisha, India!


The state government run by Mr. Nabin Pattnaik is making brutal police action against our people in order to hand over the 2900 acres of fertile agricultural land to the ruthless Indian steel major Jindal Steel led by industrialist Sajjan Jindal. After POSCO India fiasco which ended by 2015-2016, JSW Utkal Steel Ltd came with its proposal to build 13.2 MTPA crude steel, 900MW captive power and 10 MTPA cement along with 52 MTPA Captive Jetty at the same place.


All these are happening without free prior informed consent of our people and Gram Sabhas, and without following statutory legal procedures. The corporate forces have their clout over government of India as well the state government, so permission for any project is not a problem for them.


Around 2pm on 20th Dec, 2021, the villagers of Dhinkia made a massive demonstration against the state and police repression at Mahala village border. Suddenly the police came in seven Bolero vans entered into Dhinkia village from back side and started thrashing and beating people. The police came to arrest our leader Mr. Debendra Swain. They picked up his paternal uncle, Ayodhya Swain aged 71, who is a paralysis patient and his daughter Mili Swain 22-year-old daughter. The police slapped false charge against them under Indian Penal Code Sections: 147 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 294 (use of obscene language), 427 (mischief causing damage), 506 (criminal intimidation). They did not even spare the passerby who asked them the reason for dragging the father-daughter duo out of their house. The police assaulted women and children after entering the village in the name of searching some accused persons.


Our villagers are facing hardships due to the police action. The situation has come to such a pass that the villagers are being asked to show their Aadhaar cards to go out and enter their village. The police have been raiding the village, break into houses, attacking the villagers causing injuries, implicating people in false cases and restricting them to their houses.


We have been witnessing tensions since December 1, 2021 when the local administration officials who had gone to “Mahala” village for forceful demarcation of a revenue village. Our villagers vehemently protested against the illegal move. Our villagers have been opposing the bifurcation of the village. The State government is playing a ‘divide and rule’ policy to pave way for JSWL In addition to the existing police deployment, four additional platoons have been stationed in our area to terrorize our people. The atmosphere in the area still remains tense.


Meanwhile the new Superintendent of Police (SP) Shri Akhilesvar Singh, IPS who is already in controversy for custodial death in his regime in Puri district have taken the obligation to establish the proposed project of JSW with his supremacy. He has converted the village Dhinkia into “Kashmir” like situation where everybody entering or exiting should explain the reason & show their identity to evade the tantrum of heavy police forces deployed surrounding Dhinkia. Even the police have cut off supplies of emergency goods to create pressure among the people who protest the proposed JSW project.


Our Villagers erected bamboo barricades December 6, 2021 to restrict entry to Dhinkia village, and intensified their resistance braving incessant rains and severe cold including women are guarding the gates preventing police, government officials and any outsiders entry to the village. The villagers are on a 24 hours duty guarding the gates against the entry of police and government officials including JSW project sympathizers from the locality.


No Environmental Clearance


JSW Utkal Steel Ltd applied for Environment Clearance in 2018 in Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Government of India. As per the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2006, the public hearing / public consultation was scheduled to be conducted in Dec 2019 at Gadakujanga of Erasama Tahasil by Jagatsinghpur district administration in the request of Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) which was supposed to be a neutral event where people should be present from affected Grampanchayat, villages & nearby affected areas.  However the Public hearing was hijacked by the district administration led by then Collector Sangram Mohapatra, who was the Land Acquisition Officer of IDCO during POSCO project in 2005 and was involved in beating children & elderly people of Dhinkia during land acquisition. There were deployment of more than 15-20 platoons of police personnel days before the public hearing to terrorize local people and create a tensed like situation in that area. People were brought by hired buses from other localities that are not affected by the project by ruling party, labor union leaders and administration. The entry of local people was selective, regulated by the police, administration, local goons as well as the ruling party members to fill the place with people in support of the project. Thousands of people attended the public hearing out of which more than 80% were from the outside of the project affected area even including outside the district. Large tent, projectors were used, luxurious meals were arranged by the project proponent (JSW) for 5000 of people spending around more than Rs. 80 Lakhs in arranging the public hearing, which was a violation of EIA 2006 Notification and raised the question of neutrality & biasness. One Right to Information (RTI) application to the district administration revealed that there was only 15,000 INR spent by the administration in the public hearing. Local people were prevented to attend the public hearing, villagers of Dhinkia where the majority of objection against the project boycotted the event because the venue has been selected knowingly far away from the proposed project site. Fear of police & administration among the Dhinkia people was another reason of boycotting the public hearing citing their previous sufferings during POSCO. A simultaneous “palli sabha” (Village meeting) was organized on the same day of public hearing in Dhinkia where resolution was passed unanimously against the proposed project of JSW Utkal Steel Ltd by thousands of people. Various representations were sent to the Expert Appraisal Committee, MoEF&CC, GoI against such illegal, unconstitutional public hearing by villagers & civic bodies. One RTI information revealed that there were approx. 1000 written representation signed by affected villages were sent in favor of the proposed project, however almost 90% of them were false, forged & never signed by the villagers with the same name. Surprisingly mostly people don’t exist, another who have signed are illiterate (can’t sign) & few who are children below 13 years. All the written representations are of same format which were actually done by the JSW officials before the public hearing by help of district administration & local ruling party members. Regarding the above many representations have been sent to the Expert Appraisal Committee, MoEF&CC, GoI upon which EAC has raised questions & clarifications but in vain.


The Environment Clearance to JSW couldn’t be granted since 2019 to till now due to lots of shortcomings and false information in its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Management Plan (EMP) report. Various shortcomings, misled information has been identified & informed by various civic bodies, individuals, villagers to the EAC, MoEF&CC, GoI and have requested to cancel the EC as per the ground of providing false & misled information as per the rules & regulation, despite all of these there is no action against the project proponent rather ample of chances has been provided to modify the Forms, EIA/EMP report which is against the law.


Violation of LARR 2013 and Forest Rights Act 2006


As per the  Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in  Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR) of 2013 “Land acquired and possession taken over but not utilized within a period of five years from the date of possession shall in all cases revert back to the original land owner. But the government of Odisha made it exactly opposite. As per Odisha government’s revised policy for land acquisition notified on February 7, 2015, “Land acquired and possession taken over but not utilized within a period of five years from the date of possession shall in all cases revert back to the state and be deposited in the Land Bank automatically.”


With respect to forest land the Forest Rights Act recognizes and vests legal rights of local communities over forest land and community forest resources. As you know that the residents of Nuagaon, Dhinkia and Gobindpur villages have submitted applications to the local authorities to claim their land and forest rights, but these claims have not been processed since 2011. It is to be noted that three different official committees i.e., the Saxena Committee, the POSCO Enquiry Committee and the FAC – found that the Forest Rights Act, 2006 had been violated in the proposed POSCO area. Besides, on several occasions in the past, the Gram Sabhas of the area have passed majority resolutions against any handover of their lands and community forest resources.


The government must respect the unanimous resolution passed by over 2,000 people at a Gram Sabha held in October 2012 that the land used for betel cultivation was under the rights provided to the Gram Sabha under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. The state government is obligated to fulfill the statutory legal requirement of ensuring recognition and vesting of forest rights and consent over these lands after exit of POSCO, otherwise the government will be committing further a criminal offence under the FRA, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the SC/ST prevention of atrocities Act 1989 and the amendments done in 2016. Thus under the Forest Rights Act of 2006, transfer of people’s land to Jindal is illegal.


In July 2017, our villagers have filed a petition with the Kolkata bench of the National Green Tribunal. It’s has been asserted that the Odisha government cannot put this forest land into the land bank. According to the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, the government is required to get forest ‘clearance’ or approval from the central environment ministry to use forest land for a non-forestpurpose. However, there is no provision to obtain forest clearance for a ‘land bank’ under the Act. The petition adds that under the Forest Rights Act of 2006, the government cannot change the use of forest land without recognizing the land and forest rights of people living or dependent on it for generations.


The Government of Odisha through its Panchayati Raj Department removed Debendra Swain who is the Panchayat Samiti member (an elected representative) in an unlawful manner just to give a visual to the public that any raise of voice against the Government will be dealt with punishment serious punishment. This speaks volumes about the state of grass root democracy in India, more particularly the status of constitutional safeguards and empowering acts.


Our Demands


* The administration should take steps for immediate withdrawal of police force from Dhinkia and ensure that normalcy is restored soon.


* The government should stop all types of repression on our people and withdraw all false and fabricated cases against our people.


* The government of Odisha must follow the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Singur issue in which the land of farmers bought for the Tata Nano plant was returned to them.


* The process of fresh land acquisition and fencing etc. should be suspended immediately as there is no environment clearance for the proposed project of JSW.


* Urgently process individual and community forest rights claims on land it had taken over for a POSCO project instead of transferring the land to a land bank.


* Declare that there is no provision under law or under any act which provides for land acquisition for any land bank for any purpose. Thus the land must return to the original inhabitants as per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR) of 2013.


* Ensure implementation of the judgment of NGT, Principal Bench, New Delhi dated 12- 07-2018 and remove any construction already made on the forest land.


* The government needs to replant the trees in our sensitive coastal areas where more than two lakh trees were indiscriminately cut down by the Government for POSCO.


* A committee consisting of sensitive jurists, human rights advocates, activists, ecologists and ecological economists should be formed to keep a watch on what the government is doing in our area just to promote corporate interests at a huge cost to our native people and their permanent sources of livelihoods which are part of an ecologically sensitive coastal zone.


In Solidarity,

Prashant Paikray

Spokesperson, Anti-Jindal & Anti-POSCO Movement, Odisha, India


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