The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Decision on Posco in Delhi today

Bhubaneswar, Oct. 18: Posco is scheduled to hold its board meeting at Delhi tomorrow to review the progress of its 12-metric tonne steel plant project in Orissa.

The progree would be discussed in the backdrop of the recent incident in which four senior company officials were held hostage for several hours by the anti-plant protesters.

Meanwhile, the South Korean company, unhappy over the growing hostility of the anti-plant protestors and official apathy, has recalled its officials posted at the project office in Kujang to its corporate office at Bhubaneswar. Today, around 13 staffers from the project, including general manager Ardhendu Das reported at the Bhubaneswar office. Only two officials, an administrative manager and a receptionist, stayed back at the Kujang office.

Posco chief executive officer Ku-Taek Lee and senior executive vice-president and chairman-cum-managing director Soung-Sik Cho and nine independent directors would be attending tomorrow’s board meeting, said company spokesperson Sashank Patnaik.

During this visit, the board members and senior executives would be visiting the Posco-India corporate office at Bhubaneswar to review the progress of Posco-India project.

Lee is also scheduled to meet and discuss the progress of the project with high-level officials of both the central and state governments. “The company is keen to start its first integrated steel plant outside Korea in Orissa and aims it to be the most competitive steelworks in the world,” said a company official.

Posco, the fourth largest steel manufacturer in the world, had signed an MoU with the Orissa government in June 2005 to set up a 12-metric tonne steel plant near Paradip at an estimated cost of $12 billion.

However, the project has been slowed down by over an year due to failure of the state administration to acquire land owing to stiff resistance by locals who are likely to be displaced by the proposed project.

For last 27 months, the state government has not been able to acquire a single inch of the 400 acres of private land in the gram panchayats of Dhinkia, Gadakujang and Nuagaon after determined villagers erected bamboo barricades at the villages entrances. So far, the state government has handed over only 193 acres of government land out of 4,004 acres required for the plant.

Not only the company authorities were unhappy over the delay in land acquisition, but also they were worried over the growing incidents of abduction and assault of company officials and the alleged apathy of the police to deal with a “group of people who have been taking law onto themselves”.

Much to their chagrin, the local police recently advised the Posco officials not to enter the proposed project area without prior intimation in the wake of detention of senior executivesby the anti-displacement protesters on October 13.

Meanwhile, Posco-India chairman-cum-manging director Soung-Sik Cho has written to chief minister Naveen Patnaik seeking security for his officials to go to the site project site to begin land demarcation.

Patnaik, who is away at New Delhi, has not responded to the letter yet.

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