The proposed Orissa steel plant of Posco-India, subsidiary of Pohang Iron and Steel Co, continued to stir strong emotions as thousands are gathering to hold rallies Thursday at a village near the site, some to protest and others to support the project.
Both supporters and protestors have announced plans to hold mass rallies at Balitutha village in Jagatsinghpur district, some 120 km from the state capital, where the South Korean steel major proposes to build a $12-billion steel plant by 2016, the largest foreign direct investment in India.
About a hundred policemen have been deployed in the area to prevent untoward incidents ahead of the rallies.
'Since pro-project groups for the first time announced a rally in that village, we have deployed about 100 policemen, including three senior police officers, to avoid any untoward situation,' a senior district police officer told IANS.
Balitutha is considered the entry point to the proposed plant site, where protestors have blocked roads for the past 36 days. They are not allowing Posco and government officials to enter the site.
Sitting member of Orissa legislative assembly and former state minister Damodar Rout would lead the pro-Posco rally, the police official said.
'The meeting we are organising is to tell people about the benefits of the proposed project,' Rout told IANS.
'Let him show his strength,' said Abhaya Sahu, president of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), which has been protesting the deal. PPSS has decided to organise a rally of its own at the same village.
More than 7,000 people, including women and children , who have been protesting the proposed plant, would participate in the demonstration, said Sahu.
'They will be here with full preparation to face any consequences,' he affirmed. The people will carry 'lathis' (sticks), arrows, brooms and other weapons, he said.
Over 20,000 people from around 15 nearby villages in the district have been protesting the project, saying it would take away their homes and livelihoods.
Posco and the Orissa government say the plant will bring economic prosperity to the state and create jobs, although it will affect 500 families in the area.