India Business
Clash over Posco project in Orissa village
May 20, 2007 - 9:33:27 PM

Bhubaneswar, May 20 - Tension gripped a village in Orissa's Jagatsinghpur district Sunday after two groups of residents clashed over South Korean steel major Posco's proposed project, coming up in the region with the largest foreign direct investment in India.

The clash erupted Saturday night when over a dozen activists of the Rashtriya Yuba Sangathan and the Nabanirman Samiti, two organisations spearheading an agitation against the project, met some of their supporters at Nuagaon, some 100 km from state capital Bhubaneswar.

Nuagaon, with a population of over 1,500, is one of the villages to be affected by the mega project.

Over a dozen of Posco supporters rushed to the village and beat up the activists, Nabanirman Samiti leader Biswajit Ray told IANS. Four of our activists were injured, he said.

Hundreds of Sangathan and Samiti activists Sunday demonstrated over five hours in front of the residence of Tamil Pradhan, who is a leading supporter of the project, in the same village protesting the overnight attack, Ray said.

Over 100 project supporters rushed to the spot and allegedly beat up the demonstrators. At least 30 people including 20 women sustained injuries, he said.

However, a local hospital official said they were not aware of any injuries as nobody had been admitted there or came for treatment.

The situation remained tense in the village as the anti-Posco groups organised a meeting in the village in the evening, protesting the attack, a Nuagaon resident said.

A Posco supporter alleged that some anti-project activists had attacked them first.

'We have not received any complaint from any body,' district police chief Y.K. Jethwa said.

A Posco official said: 'It is an issue internal to the village and we do not want to comment on that.'

The region has witnessed a series of clashes since the steel company and the Orissa government signed a deal in June 2005 for the $12 billion plant. The plant is to come up near the port town of Paradeep by 2016.

On two occasions this month, those opposing the project took hostage Posco officials visiting Nuagaon.

Four local employees of the steel major were held hostage for 10 hours May 11. Two other officials were detained for two hours May 16 and released them after detaining near about two hours.

In both instances, the officials were released only after they gave an assurance that they will not enter the area again.

While police often register cases against activists from either side, nobody has been arrested for such incidents so far.

Those protesting the project say the plant will displace over 20,000 people from around 15 villages and ruin their betel leaf farming.

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

There has been no progress on the project due to the protests.

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