Bhubaneswar, Oct. 13: Activists opposing the Posco project in Jagatsinghpur today stepped up their agitation by taking hostage four senior executives of the South Korean steelmaker, but released them unharmed after six hours following a written assurance that the company’s officials would not visit the area again.
Three Koreans were among those who were detained by the protesters at Dhinkia village in Jagatsinghpur, 130km southeast of Bhubaneswar and 10km from Paradip, where Posco plans to set up its 12-million-tonne plant, which, at Rs 51,000 crore, is the single largest foreign investment project in India.
The ordeal ended around 4.30pm after marathon negotiations between the protesters and the district police. “They were released after the officer-in-charge of the local police station gave an undertaking that the Posco officials would not come to the area again,” Jagatsinghpur police superintendent Y.K. Jethwa said.
District collector P.K. Meherda said the “detained officials were on way back home”.
Around 10am, the four Posco officials — senior general managers K.S. Choi and S.H. Nam, general manager T.J. Ahn and assistant manager Dipak Ojha — reached Dhinkia to survey the area for setting up an electric tower.
“Our officials were inspecting the area when the villagers surprised them,” Posco spokesman Shashanka Pattnaik said. Around 40 protesters led the men along a muddy dirt road to Dhinkia village where they were detained inside a temple as villagers, armed with sticks, stood guard outside.
“We condemn the incident and are deeply concerned about the safety and security of our officials. This sort of activity will demotivate investors and have an adverse impact on foreign investment, which will not be in the larger interest of the people and the state,” said a company release.
Anti-Posco leader Abhay Sahoo blamed Posco for today’s incident. “We had time and again asked the Posco officials not to enter the three gram panchayat areas which will be affected by the proposed plant. Earlier, they had given a written assurance to this effect. But today the Posco officials did not pay heed to it and tried to enter the area and conduct a survey,” he said.
This is the second time that Dhinkia villagers have taken captive Posco officials.