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Child rights glare on Posco protesters

Paradip, Jan. 21: Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district administration is mulling legal action under the Juvenile Justice Act and the Child Rights Protection Act against the alleged forced use of children in the resistance movement against the Posco steel project.

Attendance in the seven primary and upper-primary schools and one high school in the area has been negligible over the past week with many students taking part in the protest.

Despite criticism, the outfit spearheading the resistance movement has again drafted children in the ongoing human barricade protest on the Dhinkia-Gobindpur border.

More than 100 children squatted at the demonstration site today shouting slogans against the project. The protesters put in place a human barricade as they had done in the past to thwart the officials’ entry into Dhinkia, the nerve-centre of the movement against the Posco steel project.

Security has been stepped up in and around the proposed project sites with armed policemen stationed at various places. Indications are that the project work would begin shortly.

“An administrative inquiry has been conducted into children’s participation in anti-Posco resistance movement. It has been found that parents were forced to send their wards to the agitation spot. The anti-Posco outfit has exerted pressure tactics to carry forward the movement by using children and women as human shields. The administration is of the view that parents bowing to dictates of resistance movement leaders are bringing their children to dharna site under compulsion. The administration will initiate legal action against the organisers for violating child rights,” said Jagatsinghpur collector Satya Kumar Mallick.

“The administration would take recourse to legal action against them under Juvenile Justice Act and the Child Rights Protection Act,” Mallick said.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had earlier asked the local administration to initiate steps to ensure that children were kept away from the human barricade resistance movement.

“Our movement against Posco would be further intensified in coming days because the government has announced that it would resume land acquisition. The mission of all families here is to stall the work by peaceful dharna in a democratic way,” said Abhaya Sahu, President of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, an anti-Posco outfit.

“There is nothing wrong in children taking part in the movement. Like their parents, they are losing everything because of the project. Since the adult family members are involved in the movement, how could the children be left alone at home? They are bringing their children to the agitation spot,” Sahu said.