Bhubaneswar, April 18: Hundreds of children opposed to the 12 million-tonne steel plant by South Korean steelmaker Posco today marched through the dirt tracks of the villages at the proposed steel plant site, a day ahead of chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s crucial meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the hurdles facing the project.
Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, the outfit that has been spearheading the anti-steel plant agitation since the last two years, has taken a cue from the Ulfa and is planning to put the children in the line of fire during the possible police operation.
The rally began in Govindpur and then headed to Dhinkia, the epicentre of anti-Posco protest in the district. Banners scripting anti-Posco sentiments dotted the rally and slogans like “Milimishi ame Posco tadiba, amabhabishyat ame gadhiba” (Kick out Posco and save our homes and hearths) rent the air. as the children marched through the villages covering a distance of 5 km.
The villages, where the rally was held, were kept out of bounds for policemen, who were stationed about 15 km away at Kujang, as the villagers erected nine bamboo gates to prevent the entry of the police, the district administration and the Posco officials.
Circle inspector of Kujang Anil Mishra said the rally passed off peacefully and no untoward incident was reported.
Sonali Mohapatra, a Class II student of Dhinkia Primary School, participated in the rally and was very enthused. “We will not allow the police and the Posco officials into our villages,” she said.
Others like Sarojini Das, Minati Das, Rajesh Swain, Chintu Swain and Biswajit Das promised to protect their land at any cost. “We are ready to face the bullets as the Banara Sena had done during the freedom struggle,” said Minati.
Addressing the gathering, Abhay Sahu, president of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti and the guiding force of the anti-Posco agitation, called upon the children to fight against the plant project, which would destroy the economy and environment of the area and spell doom for their future as well.
He also urged Manmohan Singh and Naveen Patnaik to withdraw the Posco project for the interest of the 20,000 villagers, mostly farmers and fishermen.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik, on the other hand, pledged that the project will be implemented with “a humane face and in a peaceful way”.
“Posco is the biggest FDI project in the country. It will be pursued with a humane face and in a peaceful manner. Our government has worked out the best relief and rehabilitation policy to address the issues of the local people,” a PTI report said quoting Patnaik.