| Police detain a demonstrator of Rashtriya Nav Nirman Samiti outside Posco India office at Fortune tower in Bhubaneswar on Saturday. Picture by Sanjib Mukherjee
Bhubaneswar, Oct. 20: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik today expressed his willingness to have a dialogue with the people opposing the proposed mega steel plant project of Posco even as the anti-plant protesters threatened not to allow its construction.
“I am always prepared to have a dialogue with anyone if it leads to a practical and peaceful solution so that the work for our state progresses for the betterment of our people,” said Patnaik on his return from New Delhi here this afternoon.
On if he would invite the anti-Posco protesters for a dialogue at Bhubaneswar, Naveen said: “I am always prepared for talks.”
However, the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, the body spearheading the anti-steel plant agitation in the areas to be affected by the project, rejected such offer for talks.
“There is no question of any dialogue with the government when objectives are poles apart,” Abhay Sahu, the president of the samiti, told The Telegraph.
He said they were opposed to the displacement of people, while the government was bent upon dislocating people from their land. Sahu said the public opinion was against the mega steel plant being set up by the South Korean firm.
Posco authorities, on the other hand, claimed that there was popular support in favour of the steel plant and only a group of people was opposing it.
“If we are convinced that the public opinion is not in favour of the project, we will withdraw,” said Posco spokesperson Sashank Patnaik.
The Posco board of directors today reviewed the progress of the project at the corporate office here after undertaking an aerial survey of the project site in Jagatsinghpur district, around 120km from here.
The board members expressed satisfaction over the progress of the mega steel plant project in the meeting but at the same time voiced their concern over the delay in land acquisition.
The board members called upon the Indian executives to make a concerted effort for solving the crisis, said the Posco India spokesperson.
Posco chief executive officer Lee Ku-taek had announced yesterday that the construction of the Orissa plant would comm- ence from April 1, 2008 but Posco Pratirodh Sangr- am Samiti has threatened that it would not allow construction of the plant at the present site.
A group of activists of Rashtriya Nav Nirman Samiti, another organisation fighting against the Posco project, staged a demonstration in front of the company’s corporate office in the city today when the Posco board of directors arrived there to review the progress of the project.
Bhubaneswar range DIG Y.B. Khurania said 13 activists of RNSS were arrested when they were preparing to show black flags to the visiting Posco team.
Obviously upset over the turn of events, Naveen said, “People (opposing the plant) should not take law into their own hands. None of us are above law,” he said.
The chief minister indicated that he would review the progress of the project soon.