On behalf of the communities affected by the POSCO project in Odisha (Orissa) the Environment Support Group team, in a statement issued on Thursday, appealed to all to ask their MPs to take up the cause of the villagers who have been resisting the
project peacefully for six years.
The following is the text of the statement:
We share with you the horrible news of a dastardly attack on the people of Jagatsinghpur district in Orissa earlier today. These communities have been peacefully resisting for over six years the proposed POSCO project: the single largest steel-power-mining-township-port infrastructure project conceived in recent decades.
Absolutely designed to loot the natural iron ore wealth of the country to support the prospects of POSCO, a South Korean enterprise predominantly held by American corporations and wealthy individuals including Warren Buffet, this project will destroy some of the most sensitive coastal and forest ecosystems of Orissa, and simultaneously decimate the livelihoods of thousands of natural resource dependent families.
Former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh controversially approved the project's environmental clearance, even when the expert committees that he appointed advised him against it. The experts had argued on carefully constructed grounds that all evidence provided by Orissa Government and POSCO to justify the project's positive outcomes were found to be comprehensively wrong. Even so, Mr. Ramesh justified his highly questionable and controversial stand by claiming that the project served the "strategic" interests of India, admitting as well that he was under pressure from the Prime Minister of India and Chief Minister of Orissa.
The High Court of Orissa was approached subsequently to set right the wrongs committed by the Central and State governments, as they had effectively created a "rightless people" out of the communities affected by POSCO's investment. But the Hon'ble Principal Bench which heard the matter over three weeks chose not to intervene in an interim direction. Several months later, final arguments on pending cases are yet to be initiated.
The consequence has been that communities who have been justly resisting this absolutely scandalous project, and peacefully so for over six years now, have been repeatedly attacked by goons. This while the police and Government representatives have simply stood by and watched.
Abhay Sahu, the leader of the resistance, was recently arrested on several trumped up charges (at least three dozens of cases have been falsely filed against him), and he languishes today in prison. This is the second time that he has been so jailed; the previous time he was in prison for 11 months based on trumped up charges that he is a threat to the nation.
Earlier today, over 500 goons have attacked the hapless women, children, youth, the elderly and the men with weapons and bombs injuring many. At least one is dead, apparently one of the goons. Once more the police watched all this without intervening to protect women and children, and the elderly, and to establish order.
As people across the nation work to rid it of corruption, it must be realized that the worst form of corruption is to engage in violence against peaceful communities who are only fighting for their just rights and for the protection of wildlife and the environment. Any amount of economic development is simply not worth the price if it creates more poor, destroys sensitive ecosytems and benefits foreign corporations and the 1% of the world who are wealthy. In addition, such projects only benefit those with overseas slush accounts to our common detriment.
It is time we troubled the conscience of each and every Member of the Parliament to raise this issue in the august body which is now in session. They are duty bound to ensure that the Orissa Government backs off the POSCO project and saves Orissa and the country from loot and plunder of non-renewable iron ore and destruction of thousands of livelihoods of natural resource dependent communities and wildlife, which the POSCO investment comprehensively represents.
You can find the contact details of your MPs by clicking their name at the following links:
Lok Sabha: http://126.96.36.199/LssNew/Members/Alphabaticallist.aspx
Rajya Sabha: http://188.8.131.52/Newmembers/memberlist.aspx
Ask the MPs to raise the issue in Parliament. Urge them to pressure the Chief Minister of Orissa and Prime Minister to stop the dastardly attacks on communities resisting POSCO. Demand that they ask the government to scrap the POSCO project to protect the economic and ecological security of India. Ask them to demand stern action against the goons who attacked the villagers, and those in the police and Orissa administration who actively and complicitly supported them.
Please spare some time and call up your newspaper and TV channel and urge them to cover the issue, actively, as actively as they have covered the debates on the need for the Lokpal Bill.
And please spare some more time and write to the PM and all others as the POSCO Prathirodh Sangram Samiti has requested.
To know why you should oppose the POSCO investment, please see "Tearing through the Water Landscape: Evaluating the environmental and social consequences of POSCO project in Odisha, India" accessible at: www.esgindia.org
See also two earlier posts in this blog:
A statement by concerned citizens
POSCO’s Orissa project: an Open Letter