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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 26, June 18, 2011

Letter to Dr Manmohan Singh

Monday 20 June 2011

The following is a letter sent to the Prime Minister by several civil society activists on June 6.

Respected Dr Manmohan Singh,

We condemn the outrageous and illegal attempt by the Odisha Government, with the connivance and support of the Centre, to attack and seize the land of the villagers affected by the proposed POSCO project. We understand that on June 3, 17 people—including five children— were arrested and beaten by the police because they refused to allow the destruction of their farms. We also understand that the adminis-tration has been announcing through loud-speakers that they will use force against anyone who does not submit to the takeover of their land within the next 24 hours. Thousands of people are peacefully protesting while 24 platoons of police have been deployed in the area, probably for use in a brutal forced attempt at taking the land of the villagers of Dhinkia and Gobindpur today—Monday, June 6—or in the coming days. This is occurring even as court cases by the villagers are pending in the Orissa High Court and are due to be heard shortly.

This attack on the lives and livelihood of thousands is doubly outrageous because it has been repeatedly shown, and accepted by three different official committees, that the takeover of this land is illegal and in violation of the Forest Rights Act. The Environment Ministry has violated the law and its own orders and stated as much when giving the clearance. We note that in February of this year the National Advisory Council had specifically asked you to ensure that the practice of handing over forest land to companies in gross violation of this “landmark law”, as you yourself described it, should be halted and action taken against the officials responsible.

Further, the project is proceeding despite the fact that an official committee said it had “potentially disastrous impacts” on the environ-ment that could “cause loss of life”; and after an independent study showed that it would lead to a net loss of employment, destitution and impoverishment of around 50,000 people while producing no benefits for the local economy. Indeed, there is such a pattern of illegality around this project that five prominent anti-corruption activists have recently called for an investigation into “criminal collusion” between government officials and the company.

We call upon you to immediately ask the Odisha Government to halt this illegal attack, to withdraw all clearances given in violation of law, and to take an impartial position in the court cases filed by the people. Failure to stop this attack will show that the UPA Government’s much vaunted concern over issues of displace-ment, forest rights and “inclusive growth” is simply an eyewash.

Sincerely,

Deep Joshi, Pradhan, and Member, National Advisory Council; Aruna Roy, Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, and Member, National Advisory Council; Kavita Srivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties; Harsh Mander, Aman Biradari, and Member, National Advisory Council; Dr Madhav Gadgil, Ecological Scientist, and Member, National Advisory Council; Arvind Kejriwal, Parivartan India, and India Against Corruption; Dr B.D. Sharma, Bharat Jan Andolan, and former Commissioner for SC/STs, Govern-ment of India; Prof Amit Bhaduri, Council for Social Development; Medha Patkar, National Alliance of People’s Movements; Justice Rajindar Sachar, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, and former Chief Justice, Delhi High Court; Swami Agnivesh, World Council of Arya Samaj; Dr Binayak Sen, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL); Advocate Prashant Bhushan, Campaign for Judicial Accountability; Major General S.G. Vombatkere (Retd), NAPM, Karnataka; Dr Vandana Shiva, Navdanya; Prof Kamal Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University; Prof Ilina Sen; Prof K. Satchidanandan; Dr K. S. Subramanian, IPS; Suhas Borker, Working Group on Alternative Strategies; Prof Anuradha Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University; Dr Manoranjan Mohanty, Council for Social Development; Dr Walter Fernandes, North-Eastern Social Research Centre; Dr Mira Shiva, Public Health Expert; Madhu Bhaduri, former diplomat; Dr Sandeep Pandey, National Alliance of People’s Movements; Thomas Kocherry, World Forum of Fisher People; Xavier Dias, Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee; Sumit Chakravartty, Mainstream; Ashish Kothari, Kalpavriksh; Dr Bela Bhatia, Social Scientist.

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