The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to forward an appeal from the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS).
For more information, please contact: Prashant Paikary, Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, phone: +977 9437 571 547.
Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
We appeal to one and all to strongly condemn the decision of the Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Government of India. Mr. Jaiaram Ramesh for giving final forest and environmental clearance to POSCO Company for use of 1,253 hectare of forest land in our area. This clearance is given on the basis of compliance report made by the Odisha government which is factually and legally incorrect and misleading.
Mr. Ramesh and the state government of Odisha disrespected the resolution of Palli sabha (Village council) that opposed any handover of land to the proposed project. As per section 6 of the Forest Rights Act 2006 villagers of Dhinkia and Govindpur organised Palli Sabhas on 21st and 23rd of February 2011 respectively. We had sent the copies of the resolutions to the Odisha government authorities and the Environment Ministry for their information. The government authorities deliberately suppressed facts and declared in the government’s submission to the MoEF that such resolutions were fake and said that ‘only 69 and 64 signatures respectively were put in the Dhinkia and Govindpur Palli Sabha resolutions’. However, in reality, out of 2,445 total number of voters in Dhinkia village, 1,632 persons and out of 1,907 total number of voters in Govindpur village, 1,265 persons signed on the Palli Sabha Resolutions. We are attaching herewith the Palli Sabha notices, notices to Executive officer, and resolutions of Dhinkia and Govindpur village for your information. More than 65 % of the villagers participated in both the Palli Sabhas and passed the resolutions rejecting the proposal for diversion of land.
It is a matter of great concern that the Ministry of Environment & Forest in collusion with the Government of Odisha has deliberately chosen to overlook the key issues raised by us on the illegalities committed in the forest and environment clearance process. The MoEF and the Government of Odisha has fraudulently raised the issue of Palli Sabhas to sidestep statutory requirements for forest and environmental clearance.
The central issue which the Ministry and the Odisha government has avoided is the compliance to the requirements under the Forest Rights Act, particularly Section 4 (5) and the MoEF guidelines issued in August 2009 which obligates the state government to ensure completion of the Forest Rights Act and to obtain the consent of Gram Sabha in the areas proposed for diversion of forest land. In fact this is the ground for the Ministry’s issuing stop work order on 5th August 2010.
Subsequent visit and fact finding by the Saxena committee and the Meena Gupta committee has substantiated our claim and proved beyond doubt that there are other traditionally forest dwellers in the proposed areas depending traditionally on the forests for their livelihood, that sufficient documentary evidence is available which shows the existence of forest rights (which is also available with the ministry) and that the FRA is not implemented by the state government in the area. Based on the Meena Gupta committee’s report the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has recommended withdrawal of forest clearance.
The state government has been repeatedly denying the existence of tribal in the proposed project area whereas the census 2001 confirms the presence of tribal people. We have also submitted concrete evidences that there are tribals in our area who are cultivating the forest land. In July 2010, the state administration by use of force illegally occupied the land of two tribals, Sh.Ramachandra Murmu and Sh. Rajendra Hembram of Polang village. There are number of other instances where the government is suppressing the facts and figures.
On 29th of April 2011, Mr. Ramesh visited Odisha and raised the questions about the raw material requirements and its sources and the new MoU with POSCO. On that particular day, we demonstrated in huge numbers and asking Mr. Ramesh to withdraw the provisional forest, environmental and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances. But to our shock and utter surprise, on 2nd of May 2011, he gave the final forest and environmental clearance. This is nothing other than double standards shown by Mr. Ramesh who has used the smoke screen tactics to ward off people’s anger while preparing for complete capitulation to interest of private profit.
The initial rejection by Mr. Ramesh of the compliance report sent by the state government (submitted on 13th April 2011) giving assurance about the non-existence of Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) in our area created the impression that Mr. Ramesh and the central government are respectful of law and opinion of the citizen of the country. However, the final order only exposed the true character of the Minister and the central government.
It is learnt that POSCO was one of the mega projects which was cleared by the then Minister, Ministry of Environment and Forests, A Raja. This decision was taken in haste on 15th of May 2007, exactly a month after the controversial statutory Environmental Public Hearing on the project was held, which involved major human rights violations. The unseemly haste by which Raja cleared the POSCO project was a strong indicator of favourable decisions that were meant to follow. In view of the recent forest clearance granted by the MoEF it becomes amply clear that in addition to the violation of forest and environment clearance, the POSCO project clearance is also a part of the corruption trail of the present political set up. Hence the ongoing CBI enquiry on the corruption involved in the 2G spectrum allocation should also include the investigation into the corruptions involved in the POSCO project.
The POSCO claimed to have spent INR 329.15 crore (USD 73.85 million) for the proposed Project. We want to know where and how the POSCO has spent the money. We are strongly demanding a CBI enquiry to find out the details of expenses and how much money has been used to bribe the politicians and bureaucrats.
It’s not quite unknown that the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has been keen to see the project gets necessary clearance. The manner in which the final clearance came shows that the PM and the Environment Minister could go to any extent in disregarding the legislations passed by Parliament (FRA) and resolutions by sovereign Palli Sabha to accommodate the interest of South Korean Company-POSCO. It is now confirmed that for the sovereignty of India is at peril till Manmohan Singh, Jairam Ramesh and Naveen Patnaik (Chief Minister of Odisha) like people are holding top positions.
Jairam Ramesh’s statement about ‘faith and trust in federalism’ confirmed the collusion between the centre and the state against its own people. At this juncture, we appeal to all citizens to write condemnation letters to PMO, Environment Minister and Chief Minister of Odisha, and protect the rights and sovereign will of the people of India. Otherwise the day that the country is divided piece by piece by corporate cartels’ to serve their greed won’t be very far away, and the governments by then would have completely lost their credibility and legitimacy.
We will soon decide the future course of our democratic struggle to thwart POSCO from entering our area to protect our land and livelihoods.
Please send your letter in the following addresses:
1. Mr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India,
Prime Minister’s Office,
Room number 152, South Block, New Delhi
Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857
2. Mr. Jairam Ramesh
Minister of State for Environment and Forest,
CGO Complex, Lodi Road,
3. Mr. Naveen Patnaik
Chief Minister of Orissa,
Naveen Nivas, Aerodrome Road,
P.O.- Bhubaneswar, Khurda District
Tel: +91 674 2531 100, 674 2535 100
Fax: +91 674 2590 299, 674 2591 099
National Human Rights Commission of India,
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg,
New Delhi 110 001,
Tel: +91 11 230 74448
Fax: +91 11 2334 0016
5. Mr. T. Theethan
IAS, The Joint Secretary,
National Commission for Schedule Caste
5th Floor, ‘B’ Wing, Lok Nayak Bhavan, Khan Market,
New Delhi 110103
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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