'Forest clearance no license for forcible land acquisition'

Posted By: Pti
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New Delhi, Jun 12: Amid protests by locals against land acquisition for Posco's steel plant in Orissa's Govindpur village, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh today (June12) asked the state government not to use environmental clearance for the project as a "license for forcible acquisition of land".

"The Posco steel-cum-power-cum-port project in Odisha was given environment and forest clearance by the Ministry of Environment and Forests after a great deal of thought and a careful balancing of various factors. However, I hope that the state government will not use this clearance as a license for forcible acquisition of land," Ramesh said in a statement.

He said the "intent" and "purpose" of the environmental clearance was not not to allow forcible acquisition of land.

"I have often said that environment and forest clearance process should not be used to fight other battles that have to do with important issues like land acquisition, compensation and livelihoods...I appeal to the Odisha government to ensure that land is acquired only through peaceful and law-governed means," the Union Minister said.

Govindpur villagers, who have refused to give away their land for the steel plant have formed a three-tier human barricade at the entry point Orissa government has declared the protests as "unlawful" and re-deployed about 800 personnel in the area.

Ramesh said while all parties should adhere to democratic norms and procedures, "I earnestly hope that the state government will not take any precipitate action." Dialogue and discussion, not coercion is as essential to ecological security as it is to democracy, he said. 

The ''Shivir'' is being organised at a time when Congress and the coalition government it runs at the Centre are facing difficult times in the wake of a series of scams and the situation caused by the agitations against corruption and black money.

The first such session had taken place at Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh in September 1998, just a few months after Gandhi took over the reins from late Sitaram Kesri, when the party was in doldrums. At that conclave, Congress, out of power at the centre for over two years, had concluded that the era of coalition in the country was but a "transient" phase.

After eight years of political wilderness in New Delhi, the party line underwent change at the next conclave in Shimla in July 2003, just a year before the Lok Sabha elections, where Congress underlined the need for unity of secular forces.

The success of the new line was visible in less than a year with the ouster of the BJP-led NDA government by the Congress-led UPA under the leadership of Gandhi. This paved the way for the first experiment of the Congress to share power at the Centre from May 2004.

Reports had it that senior party leaders led by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee have already been entrusted the task to formulate the central theme for the brainstorming session.


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