Naveen offers to hold talks with anti-POSCO agitators

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Bhubaneswar, Oct 20 (UNI) Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today offered to hold discussions with the anti-POSCO agitators for a peaceful solution to the ongoing agitation against the proposed mega steel plant by South Korea steel major POSCO in the state.

On his arrival from New Delhi, Mr Patnaik told newspersons at his residence here that he was keen to talk with the anti-POSCO agitators if it would lead to a practical and peaceful solution to the setting up of the 12 million tonnes steel plant, considered to be the largest FDI in the country.

The Chief Minister said he had a very fruitful discussion with POSCO Chairman Ku-Taek Lee at New Delhi yesterday and the latter had announced to start the ground work from April one.

On the violent agitation by the anti-POSCO agitators under the banner of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samittee (PPSS), the Chief Minister said the agitators should not take law into their own hands.

''If the people of Gadakujanga, Nuagaon and Dhinkia have anything to say, they are free to hold discussions as my doors are open for them,'' Mr Patnaik remarked.

The Chief Minister said the Rs 51,000 crore project would bring about infrastructure development, create ancillary and downstream industries in the area, benefitting lakhs of people in the state.

Meanwhile, police today arrested a dozen protestors of the Rastriya Nava Nirman Samitee (RNNS) for showing black flags to the POSCO Board of Directors, led by its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) K T Lee, when they entered the POSCO India office at the Fortune Tower.

The RNNS had also been opposing the plant at the proposed site, alleging that it would displace thousands of people and deprive them of their livelihood for ever.

Meanwhile, the PPSS, spearheading the agitation against the mega steel plant, warned that they would not allow the project to come up in their villages.

Reacting to a statement of Mr Patnaik and POSCO CEO Ku-Taek Lee that the steel plant would start in April next year, PPSS president Abhaya Sahu said the villagers were determined not to allow any officials to enter their villages whatever the consequences might be.

Mr Sahu said the villagers, including women and children of the proposed POSCO project area, had been resorting to road blockade for the past two and half years by erecting wooden gates in Dhinkia at Nuagaon and Gadakujang panchayats to prevent the police and government officials from entering their villages.

He said they would soon mobilise the students and college goers of their areas by strengthening their forces near the gates and barricades to protest the decision of the POSCO to go ahead with the project work in April.

The POSCO project had run into rough weather ever since the company had signed the MoU with the Orissa government in June 2005.

The project had already been delayed due to stiff resistance by the local people as it had not been able to acquire any land and its proposal for mining lease was also pending with the government for final approval.

UNI

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