Mainstream Weekly

Home > 2023 > Interim Report of the People’s Commission on Land Acquisition and Police (...)

Mainstream, VOL 61 No 42 October 14, 2023

Interim Report of the People’s Commission on Land Acquisition and Police Repression in Dhinkia Region

Saturday 14 October 2023


7 October 2023

In June 2005, the Government of Orissa gave a contract to POSCO, a South Korean multinational corporation to invest approximately US$12 billion in an integrated steel venture. Due to public pressure and other factors, POSCO withdrew from the project in March 2017. Following POSCO’s exit, in June 2017, the Odisha government transferred the land to the JSW Utkal Steel Limited (JUSL). JUSL plans to build a 13.2 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) integrated steel plant that will also comprise a captive power plant of 900-megawatt capacity, and a cement grinding and mixing unit of 10 MTPA. The land requirement for the project is 1260 ha. Of this 1260 ha, 136.47 ha is non-forest land whereas 1069.53 ha is forest land.

The residents of Dhinkia Panchayat were not in favour of having the project because of its negative effects on their livelihood and environment. Resistance, however, led to State repression and arrests, which still continues. The present People’s Commission has been constituted to listen to their problems. The Commission attempted to understand and deliberate upon the problems related to repression and criminal cases, forest rights, livelihood, environment, social development issues, resettlement and rehabilitation, and the violation of constitutional rights.

The proceedings of the Commission commenced at 11 am on 7th October 2023. More than 100 affected persons attended the proceedings. From Dhinkia ten persons, including men and women, provided testimony on their personal sufferings. They represented a snapshot of the wider affected population in the region. In addition, members of civil society groups and concerned individuals also deposed. The Commission was also provided with a background note and relevant documents. After going through the deposition, statements, and documents, the Commission is making the following interim observations and recommendations, pending a final report.
We may point out at this juncture that affected people at the conclusion of the proceedings, had expressed their fears about police repression on their return journey home. The Commission then decided to issue the following statement, yesterday i.e. 7.10.2023:

“The JSW- affected persons, in their depositions before the People’s Commission, expressed their apprehension that they may be arrested or harassed by the police for participating and joining the deposition before the Commission.

We urge that no coercive action or harassment be done by the police or state authority for their participation in the proceedings before the People’s Commission on land acquisition and repression in the Dhinkia region.”



It appears that forest clearance has been obtained by the project proponent without the determination of the forest rights of the residents. The provisions of ST and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of) Forest Rights Act, 2006, among others, provide that: “no member of a forest dwelling scheduled tribe or other traditional forest dweller shall be evicted or removed from forest land under his occupation till the recognition and verification procedure is complete.” The said Act provides for the steps which are required to be taken for determination of forest rights. Under the said Act, Rules 2007 have also been framed. The affected persons clearly come under the category of ‘Other traditional forest dwellers” (OTFD) as they have been living there for several generations.

The deponents stated that no steps have been taken by the government for recognition of their forest rights under the Act or the Rules.

The Commission recommends that the process of recognition of their forest rights as per the said Act and Rules should be determined by inviting claims. These claims should be decided expeditiously. As mentioned above, till their individual, community and cultural rights are determined, no steps for eviction or any other coercive action should be taken by the state or other any agency.


Not only have the forest rights of the people not been determined but they have been forcibly evicted from the lands on which they have forest rights and where they were cultivating betel vines and other agricultural operations, thereby snatching away their only source of livelihood. Instead of assisting them with claiming forest rights and providing welfare measures, the repressive actions have been resorted to.

Villagers, during deposition, broke down as they described how their villages have been surrounded by police making it difficult for them to go out even to the market or to the hospital. They are asked for identification every time. Both women and men said they had been picked up from their homes at night or early morning and arrested. People have multiple criminal cases filed against them; as soon as they are out in one case, they are picked up in another. From 2019 to 2023, nearly 100 cases have been registered. In certain FIRs, the names one or two persons and several others were included, thus casting a wide sweep. The fear of police arrests and torture has forced people to leave their homes and hide in the forests for months on end. Families have been separated. Ordinary life, including cultivation, has been made impossible. Women showed injuries on their bodies being beaten by the police (both male and female police) and company goons. Cases are still pending from the POSCO period. Two persons are still in jail, Debendra Swain and Basanta Swain.

Many of the cases stem from 14 January 2022, when villagers were trying to go and water their betel vines after not having been allowed there for 2-3 months. The police lathi-charged them and thereafter filed criminal cases against them.

Besides the physical repression, the administration is behaving vindictively with the villagers for daring to protest. Their ration cards are not made, ration is denied, their children do not get school migration or caste certificates, and they are not getting their legal entitlements. People reported that they were offered money by the police to stop opposing acquisition and when they refused, they were threatened with arrest.

In the facts and circumstances, the Commission recommends that all criminal cases foisted on the villagers should be withdrawn and all coercive processes should cease. Citizens have the fundamental right to peacefully oppose displacement and have freedom of expression and movement and cannot be criminalized for exercising these rights.


The people who deposed said that the steel plant would not offer a better standard of living for them as against what they already had by growing betel vines, cashew, kewra, agriculture and fishing. Even those who are landless had sufficient employment. The state’s repressive actions have resulted in the destruction of the livelihood of these villages. The betel vine growing areas have been destroyed, resulting in many landless people who were employed in this work also losing out on regular work. Fishing rights have been severely affected. Regular agricultural work of growing paddy is also difficult due to the repressive actions. A social impact assessment was done after the public hearing on 20 December 2019.

The Commission recommends that R & R Plan be prepared with participation of Gram Sabha and in consonance with the 2013 LARR. The state should act positively in furtherance of their constitutional obligations to provide employment, health and educational facilities.


Among several environmental concerns, two important concerns were highlighted:

The company has been promised water from the Mahanadi, when water for drinking and agriculture is scarce. The steel plant, cement and captive power plants will all require a lot of water. Groundwater levels may also be affected adversely.

Paradeep is a highly polluted industrial area and the project site is located in its vicinity. Therefore, it is necessary to have a cumulative impact assessment of the project. In their testimonies, people spoke about the critical pollution in Paradeep and the likely impact of the pollution on their lives and livelihood if the integrated steel and cement plant was allowed to come up.

People also pointed out that the project was earlier abandoned by POSCO. There were adverse comments by the NGT in its order dated 30.3.2012 and that the conditions stated in the EC granted to POSCO have not been complied with in the EC which has been granted to JUSL. Several studies with regard to CRZ area including the levelling of sand dunes, destruction of mangroves and resultant greater exposure to cyclones have yet to be carried out. No action has been taken to mitigate the likely impact of climate change as a direct result of the integrated steel and cement plant.

The Commission recommends that the relevant concerns regarding environment clearance should be properly and adequately addressed.


The Commission recommends that the State has a constitutional obligation to protect the fundamental rights guaranteed to every citizen – right of free speech and expression, freedom of movement and the right to life with dignity. The Commission has noted that these constitutional rights have been denied to the people of these villages. They have a right to peacefully protest against state oppression and to lead a dignified life.

Justice (Retd.) Madan B. Lokur ( Chairman)

ISSN (Mainstream Online) : 2582-7316 | Privacy Policy|
Notice: Mainstream Weekly appears online only.