Posco project: Land acquisition on hold

After resuming land acquisition for the Rs 53,000-crore integrated steel project of Korean steel maker Posco in Jagatsinghpur district since February 3, the Orissa government on Wednesday temporarily suspended it following protests by local villagers.

"We stopped land acquisition in Gobindpur village shortly after noon in view of protests by villagers of Dhinkia. The police force has been withdrawn from the place. We also wanted to give our staff some rest as they have been working continuously since Sunday. There was some tension due to protests and we also wanted to give our staff some rest. We may resume land acquisition on February 8," Jagatsinghpur District Collector Satya Kumar Mallick said. He, however, said the police force would continue to be in Gobindpur.

Since February 3 when the land acquisition resumed after a gap of more than one-and-a-half year, the officials have acquired over 200 acres in Gobindpur paying compensation worth Rs 1 crore by demolishing 61 betelvines spread over government land. The government has been paying Rs 11.5 lakh as compensation for every acre of betelvines it acquires from the farmers in the area.

Though government till June 2011 managed to acquire over 2,000 acres in six villages, it could not make any headway in the two villages of Dhinkia and neighbouring Gobindpur till this Sunday when it managed to force through the latter.

On Wednesday morning, hundreds of schoolchildren from Dhinkia village formed a human barrier preventing the onward march of the land acquisition force as well as armed police.

Schools in Dhinikia, Patana and Gobindpur villages were empty as the children joined the stir before the arrival of CPI national secretary D Raja.

People of Dhinkia, considered the epicentre of anti-Posco protest, have been opposing the steel plant and have scuttled attempts by the state government to acquire forest land in their village.

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