Shri Manmohan Singh
Honourable Prime Minister of India
7 February 2013
We, the undersigned, are deeply anguished over the recent attacks on the people of Govindpur and Nuagaon villages of Jagatsinghpur District in Odisha who have been using the most democratic means to resist the forceful acquisition of their lands for the POSCO project.
We are shocked to learn of the manner in which Government of Odisha officials along with over 12 police platoons entered the villages around 4 am on Sunday 3 February 2013 and indiscriminately hit women and children with lathis (sticks), cut trees and destroyed several betel vines. Reports indicate that more than 50 persons have been injured, of them three women and one old man severely. The police also arbitrarily arrested and detained several men and women who tried to resist the action, including one of the leaders of the people’s movement.
The use of indiscriminate force against women, children, men, and older persons by the police is highly condemnable. The state government claims that people are willingly giving up their lands for the POSCO project. If this were the case, it would not be necessary to send in over 12 platoons of police in the middle of the night and resort to lathi charge and violence. To be attacked at this hour and be caught unawares despite countless organised attempts on part of the affected villagers and POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) to appeal to the government, shows the deep failure on the part of the state machinery to engage in democratic means with the people whose land it seeks to acquire.
This violent act by the state government appears to be a result of the announcement on 28 January 2013 of the Commerce Minister (Mr Anand Sharma) that the Government of India will review delays in POSCO’s USD 12 billion plant in Odisha, as it is committed to ensuring “smooth take off” of the project – the highest foreign direct investment (FDI) in India. The Commerce Minister also reportedly announced that this project is being reviewed by you and your office.
This act of aggression by the government violates a range of national laws and policies, including the Constitution of India, the Forest Rights Act 2006, the March 2012 order of the National Green Tribunal suspending environmental clearance of the project, the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2007 as well as recommendations of several independent and government committees. In its attempt to lure foreign investment into the state, the Government of Odisha and the Government of India has circumvented all democratic norms, including the Palli (Gram) Sabhas, and violated the human rights of its own people.
The actions by the Government of Odisha, with the support of the police and POSCO, also clearly violate several international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, all of which India has ratified. This recent attack on the people of the area also infringes international standards and guidelines, including the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement – which lay down obligations of both state and non-state actors.
The recent actions of the government are also illegal because the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between POSCO and the Government of India expired in June 2010.
Since 2006, the people of the area have been peacefully resisting the project because of its extensive destructive impacts on their lives and livelihoods. The non-violent resistance of local villagers to the project, however, has been met with violence, implication of false charges, and arbitrary arrests and detention of men and women. All attempts for dialogue with the government have failed, as the government has repeatedly used force with the support of the Centre in pushing for the POSCO project in Odisha.
We strongly condemn this violent and undemocratic attack on people and the violation of their human rights, including the rights to adequate housing, land, food, work/livelihood, health, and security of the person and the home.
Respected Prime Minister, since this project is being reviewed directly by you and your office, we prevail upon you to ensure:
- Immediate withdrawal of police from the area;
- Immediate release of people who have been illegally arrested and detained;
- Immediate investigation and prosecution of officials responsible for perpetuating violence against men, women and children in Gobindpur Village;
- Halting of all forms of land acquisition;
- Provision of adequate medical care to all the injured in the area;
- Restitution, including compensation for injury and the destruction of property, trees and betel-vines; and,
- An objective ‘social impact/eviction impact assessment’ of the project, as per the requirements of the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2007, and the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement.
We look forward to an adequate response from your government, and hope that you will act in accordance with India’s legal obligations and protect the rights of your people.
Miloon Kothari, former Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, UN Human Rights Council
Shivani Chaudhry, Associate Director, Housing and Land Rights Network, Delhi
Asit das- posco pratirodh solidarity delhi
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