Monday, October 15, 2007

Posco protesters release labourers in Orissa

JAGATSINGHPUR: Anti-Posco activists on Monday released ten labourers and a driver whom they had taken hostage in Orissa's Jagatsinghpur district.

The labourers had gone to work on a wooden bridge the local administration was building over Hadua River near Gadakujanga village in the district, some 120 km from state capital Bhubaneswar.

Anti-Posco activists had detained them at Dhinkia village along with their vehicle.

"The administration accepted our demand and moved the timber they had brought to build the bridge on Monday morning," president of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) Abhaya Sahu said.

The administration was building the bridge to facilitate Posco, he claimed. "The administration assured us that it will not carry out work again," he added.

PPSS is protesting the $12-billion proposed steel plant by South Korean steel major Pohang Iron and Steel Company (Posco), which will be built near Paradeep port in the coastal district of Jagatsinghpur, some 120 km from Bhubaneswar.

Posco signed a deal with Orissa government in June 2005 to set up the steel plant. The project, reportedly the single largest foreign direct investment in India, is scheduled to be built by 2016.

But since then, over 20,000 people from 15 nearby villages, including Dhinkia, Gadakujanga and Nuagaon, have been protesting the project saying it would take away their homes and livelihoods.

Posco says the plant would affect only 500 families but would create thousands of jobs.

During the past two years, anti-Posco activists have detained at least a dozen officials of the company, including seven South Korean nationals.

PPSS activists have blocked all entry points leading to the proposed site by putting up wooden barricades and not allowing government and Posco officials to the site.

They had also detained four executives of Posco-India - K.S. Choi, S.H. Nam, T.J. Ahn and Deepak Ojha - on Saturday. The activists released the officials after about six hours.

They were released after the local administration gave a written undertaking to the villagers that Posco officials would not enter the proposed plant site.

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