Tribals in Orissa oppose projects by corporates on their lands

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Puri, Dec 6(ANI): Hundreds of rural folk, a majority among them being tribals, in Orissa participated in a week-long rally to oppose the proposed projects by South Korean steel maker POSCO and the mining group Vedanta Resources.

Covering a distance of 150 kilometres, over 200 tribals hailing from 120 villages took out a protest rally from Dhinkia village to Puri on Saturday.

Activists led by social activist Medha Patkar also took part in the mass protest.

"These industries are not labour-intensive. These are becoming corporate power and they are holding and ruling this country because they are now not only funding the elections, but also funding the individual elected representatives and that is what has given them such an extra unconstitutional power that the decisions related to the development plans and projects that are no more rational, no more legal, no more constitutional," Medha Patkar said.

Mining group Vedanta Resources wants to mine bauxite for its aluminium refinery in Orissa.

However, the project has bogged down since 2005, as the local tribals have opposed it by saying that it will rob vulnerable residents of their ancestral homes and also traditional means of livelihood.

According to officials of the Vedanta Resources, the company has so far invested 823 million dollars in the plant, and it will spend another 1.23 billion dollars to expand the capacity to six million tonnes from one million tonnes by 2011.

South Korean steel maker, POSCO on the other hand had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Orissa Government in June 2005 for the 12-million-tonne-capacity steel plant to be built in three phases by 2016, with production scheduled to begin by the end of 2011 at the completion of the first phase.

Ranked number four among the steel makers in the world, POSCO has said that it requires about 4,000 acres (1,620 hectares) of land, of which a large part is forested. But, the social activists have contended that the construction will force the tribal villagers off their farmland and displace about 20,000 people.

Threatened by these projects, the tribals and other affected villagers have formed a powerful people's movement named Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti and Vedanta Vishvavidyalaya Virodhi Sangharash Samiti. (ANI)

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