Mumbai – Report of Stop Posco demonstration

May 31, 2010

[On May 25, Mumbai saw a lively protest demonstration, under the banner of the Anti-POSCO Struggle Solidarity Front, outside the Churchgate Railway Station, the virtual heart of the city, for more than an hour during the evening. At least eighty activists from a broad spectrum of organizations gathered. Full throated slogans were raised against the POSCO, Tata and Vedanta projects in Odisha and consequent attempts by the state to displace people, on a hurge scale, from their traditional habitats and brutal repressions unleashed in the process. Commuters rushing back home at the end of a busy day paused for a while to take a careful and empathetic note.

The police arrived at the scene after about half an hour and intervened on the pretext of breach of Sec. 144. The demonstration continued nevertheless. At around 6, a large banner, some placards were confiscated. A couple of activists including Com. Prakash Reddy and Com. Sanjay Singhvi were arrested. They were, however, released soon without registering any case. While slogan shouting had to stop, the leaflet distribution by a number of young enthusiasts continued for around another half an hour regardless. (Source : Sukla Sen, listserv.)]

Stop POSCO! Defeat State Repression!

India: A Million Mutinies Now!

That’s just not an empty cry, or curse!
That’s what today’s India is; big and small flames, in different corners of the land!
POSCO is just one of these, a big one, a pretty big one though.

India Today

More than six decades have passed since Independence.

The country, no doubt, is now on a rapid growth path. Since the eighties, in particular. The latest Forbes list, the list of the world’s richest, ranks 2 Indian citizens among world’s 5 richest. And, 54 are now counted as billionaires. A long long way from the days of India being seen as the land of Fakirs, snakes and beggars. No doubt about that. India in 2008 became the fourth country in the world to plant its flag on the Moon. No joke, of course. Indian elite now openly boast of commanding nuclear weapons capable of killing hundreds of thousands virtually instantaneously. Gone are the days of Gandhian namby pamby! Devil take those who talk of peace and all that!

But! But … But India stands at the lowly 134th, as per the Human Development Index (HDI) data released last October, out of a total of 182 countries surveyed. Maternal mortality in India is one of the highest in the world. And, India tops the global list for infant mortality under five years! And over the last two decades, in particular, in the name of chasing growth and development the state has vastly accelerated attacks on common people and their livelihood. The plunder of natural resources. The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) syndrome with its open and frank mission of acquiring private agricultural lands, commons and forest lands is only a gross manifestation. And that makes India the site of million mutinies now!

The POSCO Story

June 22, 2005: MoU signed between Orissa government and POSCO-India, subsidiary of the POSCO Corporation of South Korea. For an integrated iron ore mine – steel plant – private port project. Rs. 51,000 crore investment is being talked of.

MoU allocates an area of 4,004 acres for the steel plant in the coastal district of Jagatsinghpur. Of this, about 3,000 acres are classified as forest land. However, this “forest land” is largely under cultivation by various betel vine, cashew nut and other cash crop cultivators as well as people engaged in aquaculture. Some of these people have lived in the area for over a century and most have been there for several decades. Still, in absence of ownership title, out of an estimated 4,000 families that will be physically displaced by the steel plant, only 270 odd are officially entitled to compensation.

Major Problems

The POSCO project, as of now, is illegal as it violates the Forest Rights Act of 2006. The Union ministry of environment and forests on May 18 has notified that the Odisha government is yet to comply with the conditions laid down in the approval granted on December 29, 2009. Huge tracts of land, vast quantities of water and iron ore mines are proposed to be doled out for a pittance even as the project would cause large net job loss.

The Resistance

August/September 2005: POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) formed to oppose project. People are mobilised. February 2010: All the three gram sabhas – Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujang – in the steel plant area pass resolutions refusing consent for diversion of forest land. PPSS start dharna at main entry point at Balitutha.

The Repression

May 15 2010: Police brutally assaults the dharna at Balitutha. At least 100 people injured, scores arrested, market areas and protest camps burnt down. Reign of terror unleashed.

Current Status

May 19 2010: Villagers regroup and participate in a massive rally organised by the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti at Balitutha. Six opposition parties rally behind the five-year long struggle. The government steps back.

Why We Must Stand Up in Solidarity

The struggle of POSCO is now the focal point of myriad ongoing popular struggles in the country against the huge might of the state promoting corporate-led development. Hence, a victory or defeat in the fight against the behemoth POSCO, fully backed up by the state, will have a profound impact on all other ongoing and future struggles, including the ones in Raigarh and Jaitapur, for justice, democracy and peace. So this is a fight that we must win! This is a fight we must join hands with! We must all together ensure that people’s voice prevails!

Issued by Anti-POSCO Struggle Solidarity Front, Mumbai