POSCO to JINDAL Struggle and Oppressions

W.P.(C) No. 6586 of 2021 | Odisha High Court | Status: Pending | |

After the South Korean steel company POSCO pulling out of the 12 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) integrated steel plant with captive power plant project in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha. Now, the agitation comes after the decision to allow Sajjan Jindal-led JSW Utkal Steel Limited to carry out the project.

Alleging that the public hearing conducted for the project in December 2019 was a farce, the palli sabha (village council) of Dhinkia village has already passed a resolution against the project. The other villages in the project area are expected to follow suit as well.The proposed projects are said to be ‘two’ in number, but consist of at least five separate components. .  For instance the “first project” that has three components: A Steel Plant, A thermal power plant and a cement grinding plant have all been granted a joint Terms of Reference under “Metallurgical Industries (ferrous & non-ferrous).” 

The mention of the construction of a township has not been disclosed in the public hearing dated December 20, 2019. The township is a building and construction project and attracts a separate approval from the Odisha State Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA). This amounts to “false and misleading” data as M/s JSW Utkal Steel has selectively clubbed and broken up components of an integrated project that allows them to bypass detailed scrutiny and comprehensive assessment by all applicable Expert Appraisal Committees (EAC). It also misleads the public by presenting the project only two projects and therefore requiring only two public hearings.

The villagers have also complained that no common Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report covering each project component has been prepared. Without a common EIA report, affected people and concerned citizens would not have the opportunity to review the cumulative and comprehensive impacts of all components of an integrated/interlinked project such as the above.

The villagers have also questioned the adequacy of water required for the execution of the projects as the Mahanadi River near Cuttack has been identified as the source river, though it is already stressed. The K Roy Paul committee had recommended that a “source sustainability study of water requirement” be carried out, but this precaution has completely been ignored while planning the projects. No assessment or analysis of historical floods and cyclones or the impact of the project on the natural drainage pattern has been conducted.

In light of the above the villagers hasve demanded 

1.       Expedient action through your office towards immediately recalling the public hearings held on 20.12.2019.  

2.       Cancellation of the projects on grounds of providing false and misleading data by selectively clubbing and breaking up components of a project that misleads both the public and the appraisal committees. 

After the villagers of Jagatsinghpur fought off the South Korea steel giant POSCO which wanted to acquire land there, it had to gear up to fight JSW Utkal Steel, led by Sajjan Jindal for the same. They are striving to protect the betel leaf cultivation, almost a Rs. 50 crore industry in the area which is the major source of livelihood for the people there apart from fishing and agriculture.

The leaders of the movement against POSCO had been slapped with grave non-bailable offences of murder, rape, dacoity and kidnapping, reported The Hindu. Some 1,500 villagers have been shuttling between courts in Jagatsinghpur and Kujang to get reprieve in the 2,500 non-bailable arrest warrants issued against them. “We had not even seen a police station before 2005, when the land acquisition process began. These cases must be dropped,” says Swain, who stands accused in 22 cases.

Regarding JSW setting up a plant on POSCO land, a villager told The New Indian Express, “It is illegal to set up the JSW plant on Posco land. The State Government should have returned the land to people as no project could be set up within five years of its acquisition.” He also alleged that around 5,000 betel vine workers were rendered jobless due to dismantling of vines during land acquisition for Posco. The Government had decided to give sustenance allowance of Rs. 2,500 to each betel vine worker and 20 per cent of the compensation awarded to their respective vineyard owner. However, 99 per cent of the workers are yet to receive the allowance and compensation, he added.