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Posco survey after 5 years

Bhubaneswar, June 17: The five-year standoff over land acquisition for the Posco project ended today with officials of Jagatsinghpur district entering the hub of the agitation to conduct a survey.

The agitators did not allow the police to accompany the officials, who visited Govindpur village in Dhinkia gram panchayat, the heart of the anti-Posco movement, about 100km from Bhubaneswar, for the socio-economic and forestland survey.

For the past five years, villagers protesting land acquisition for the steel plant proposed by the South Korean company have resisted all attempts by the Orissa government to make progress on the $12-billion project.

“Thanks to the co-operation of the local people, we were able to conduct the survey peacefully,” said S. Devdutt, superintendent of police, Jagatsinghpur, this afternoon.

The survey will continue for a week, he added.

Posco had inked an MoU with the state government on June 22, 2005, for a steel plant near Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district.

But government officials were unable to enter the area earmarked for the project because of stiff opposition from members of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, which has been spearheading the movement against the plant.

The breakthrough came last Sunday after a Samiti delegation held a marathon meeting with chief minister Naveen Patnaik.

The delegation accepted Patnaik’s request to allow officials inside the project site to conduct a survey on the assurance that the chief minister would visit the site after the job had been done.

Although the police, who were not allowed to enter, returned to Govindpur, which is the entry point to Dhinkia, 10 police platoons deployed at Balitutha, about 2km from Dhinkia, remained on alert.

The district administration has constituted eight teams of officials from the revenue, forest and environment departments to conduct the survey.

Sangram Samiti chief Abhay Sahu said his organisation had allowed the officials to complete the survey peacefully since the outfit had given its word to Patnaik.

“We neither deviated from our position nor softened our stand,” Sahu said.

“After the survey, the chief minister must come to the area and see for himself how the project will harm the local economy and threaten the livelihood of the local people,” he added.

On May 15, Orissa police had cleared the entry point to Posco’s proposed factory site for the first time in five years, firing rubber bullets to disperse “bomb-throwing” land protesters.

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