Even as the Centre is set to review the progress on the Posco mega steel plant in Odisha, in an inter-departmental ministerial committee meeting on Tuesday, the renewed land acquisition drive for the plant, near Paradip, continued peacefully for the second day at Gobindpur in Jagatsinghpur district on Monday. The chairman and managing director (CMD) of Posco India, Y W Yoon, called on the state development commissioner, J K Mohapatra. Though Yoon said it was a courtesy meeting, both are believed to have discussed the progress on land acquisition and the project status paper by the state before tomorrow's meet, a preparatory consultation for the second joint committee meeting at the ministerial level scheduled in Seoul next month. The state, which has conducted the acquisition for the 12-million-tonne project in installments, has acquired 2,100 of the 2,700 acres needed to start the first phase work comprising eight-million tonne capacity. It is hopeful of acquiring the rest in next four months. The highlight of on Monday's acquisition drive was the handing of betel cultivation land by some project opponents at Gobindpur village. Gobindpur and adjacent village Dhinkia were the strongholds of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), the organisation leading the stir. One land giver was Pravati Mandal, wife of Nabin Mandal, an activist killed in a bomb blast at the site on March 2. The state dismantled 19 vineyards and disbursed Rs 23.30 lakh compensation to owners. The Jagatsinghpur district collector, Satya Kumar Mallick, said, "The situation has changed in Gobindpur, with many anti-Posco activists handing over their vines." Police Superintendent Satyabrat Bhoi said "only five platoons had been deployed." Ramkrushna Panda, state secretary of CPI, said, "the state was demolishing fake vines to create a good image in the minds of higher officials. PPSS has adopted strategies to oppose the acquisition from tomorrow.
We have advised all opposition political party leaders and anti-land acquisition leaders to reach Dhinkia by on Monday evening to intensify the stir". To win over the anti-Posco agitators, the state offered to withdraw 100 cases against them, relating to project-related violence over the last eight years. This is expected to benefit 1,100 villagers of Dhinkia, Gobindpur and other villages of Nuagaon and Gadkujang panchayats. Bhoi clarified effort was on to withdraw minor cases against innocent people, but major cases relating to murder, theft, rape, and molestation would not be withdrawn. The police registered 132 cases in connection with Posco-related violence, of which 100 are petty and 32 are major criminal offences. Cases have been pending against 1,460 villagers.