Blacklist POSCO and Take Steps against its Agents in Administration

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Navin’s reign of corruption is ruining Orissa. But that, it has gone up to corrupting the central decision in matter of POSCO is a shocking revelation, which the Mina Gupta Committee has made.

The Committee has submitted a split report with Ms. Gupta having preferred to submit her views separately.

However, there is reason to apprehend that her personal views reduced to her part of the report were governed more by the motive to help POSCO than locating the reality.

There is nothing to be surprised, as it is she who was heading the executive in the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) when POSCO was being patronized in violation of Laws. It was her duty to monitor the implementation of the central Acts in POSCO matters, but she did not. Now therefore it is natural on her part to make light of the crime committed against the people at the behest of POSCO.

Except Ms. Gupta, all the other three members are subject-matter specialists such as Dr Urmila Pingle, an expert on tribal issues; Dr Devendra Pandey, former Director, Forest Survey of India and Dr V. Suresh, an eminent practitioner of environmental laws. These three experts together differ from Ms. Gupta in answering the terms of reference.

The terms of Reference:

The MoEF in partially modifying its earlier order, set out on 27 August 2010 the following terms of reference:

(1) Investigation and ascertainment of the status of the implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act, 2006(FRA) in and around the forest land;

(2) Investigation and ascertainment of the status of the implementation of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement provisions in respect of the said project;

(3) Review compliance with Environmental (EIA), Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and other clearances and permissions under various statutes, rules, notifications etc.

(4) Review compliance with pari passu conditionality imposed in item (3) and (4) above;

(5) Any other matter in furtherance of the above objectives.

The Committee was required to submit its report finally by 18 October 2010, which has been done.

How have they answered:

In working over the first reference, they have found that the Government of Orissa has blatantly violated the FRA inasmuch as falsehood has been resorted to about completion of its process. “A large number of documentary and oral evidences have been found to support the presence of forest dwelling STs and OTFDs in the proposed POSCO project area contrary to the claim made by the district administration and the Orissa government that there are none”, they have concluded. Stating that the “District administration of Jagatsinghpur has not been fair and democratic in implementing the FRA in the project affected villages” their report has made it clear that in “Recognizing the role of Gram Sabha in implementation of FRA as well as in diversion of forest land for non-forestry purpose, the MoEF in its circular dated 3 Aug 2009 made it clear that a letter from each of the concerned Gram Sabha indicating completion of the process of the FRA and of prior informed consent for any diversion of the forest land is a pre-condition that must be satisfied before final forest clearance is granted. Instead of obtaining certificate from Gram Sabhas, Orissa Government, vide letter dated 16 March 2010, forwarded certificate of the Collector of Jagatsinghpur enclosing proceedings of the Sub-Divisional Level Committee of FRA. This is clearly not in compliance with but actually in violation of the conditions imposed by the MoEF”.

Against reference No.2, the Committee observes that Orissa Government, eager to patronize POSCO, has shown no concern for the poorest people. “A large number of fishing communities depend on fishing in the Jatadharmohan creek area in which the POSCO project is located. They have old and recognized customary rights of fishing in the area which have been overlooked and left out of the R & R scheme”. Similarly, “Landless workers, economically the most vulnerable social section, have not been included in the list of affected persons”, the report has pointed out.

In the matter of Reference No.3, the report has unambiguously exposed that there have been “many serious lapses and illegalities in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process”. On the matrix of Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI), Paradeep, already “a severely polluted area” is almost a critically polluted industrial cluster with 69.26 score in the index. The Orissa State Pollution Control Board, despite in know of this and notwithstanding POSCO’s mum over many queries it had made about matters of substantial importance, specially air pollution, rushed to recommend for clearances and issue of Consent to establish, which, the committee held to be “ a serious abdication of statutory responsibility”. On the other hand, by fixing public hearing venue at Kujang, about 15 Km distance away from affected villages while keeping people cowed down by “a strong police force” posted “at the venue of the public hearing a day prior to the hearing itself”, the State had made “a mockery of rule of law and procedural safeguards”, the report has noted. The report has held the State government guilty of suppression of information as is evidenced in its non-revelation of allocation of additional water to POSCO from Hansua Nalla for construction purpose.

The fourth Reference has been answered with observations that there are “a number of serious lapses and violations, including suppression of facts”.

These are only samples of lapses. The report is full of many more such defects with details.

We had in these pages shown that to protect POSCO interest, the government run by Navin Ptnaik in Oissa has been creating cleavage amongst the people. The committee in its report has said the same thing.

“The POSCO project has, unfortunately, divided the villagers of the eight project-villages into opposing camps and has created a great deal of hostility within the Villages, in what was earlier a peaceful, agricultural area. The hostility has reached levels where violent assaults among the villagers have taken place, as well as
confrontation with the police, resulting in grievous injuries and even in one death”, it has mentioned.

MoEF has asked Orissa Government to react to the report.

Navin and his troop have started saying that the lapses pointed out by the committee would be studied and if found necessary, suitable remedial steps could be taken.

Remedy of lapses in respect of projects is not significant; because, that has to happen if they are to proceed.

What is important at the moment is that POSCO is a foreign firm that has used the Government of Orissa as its instrument in hitting its target. Navin Patnaik administration has acted as its rubber stamp. Starting from Collector of Jagatsingpur to Pollution Control Board, from lower bureaucracy to Chief Secretary, from the ruling party’s local elements to the Chief Minister, in every relevant office of this Government, the agents of POSCO have ruled the roost.

Steps should be taken to determine the reasons of Orissa Government functionaries acting as facilitators of POSCO. But as from the Committee report it is clear that many illegalities and violation of Acts and Rules have been committed by the Government both in the State and the Central administration to help the foreign firm achieve its aims, it is necessary in national interest to blacklist POSCO immediately.

If the political leadership has an iota of probity and patriotism, this is the minimum that is expected.

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