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Anti-Posco villagers retract steps, hand over betel vines to officials

The villagers had intensified their stir during last few days and vowed not to hand over 'a single inch of land' to the Jagatsinghpur administration

BS Reporter  |  Bhubaneswar 

Many anti-Posco villagers, who had been agitating against land acquisition for the mega steel plant of the South Korean firm, today retracted their steps as they lined up near their betel vines in Gobindpur village, near Paradip, to hand over their vines to the district administration to make way for the setting up of the project.

These villagers had intensified their stir during last few days and vowed not to hand over ‘a single inch of land’ to the Jagatsinghpur administration at various protest meetings in the project area. Today, when the administration started land acquisition after a two days break, the villagers were seen approaching the officials with land records, identity cards and other documents with request to take over their betel vines.

“We have softened our stand towards the Posco project as we feel the stronghold of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) has weakened. We have also received assurance from the administration to get higher compensation than the actual rate,” said Benudhar Das, 50 of Gobindpur village. He accepted a compensation of around Rs 4 lakh for giving away his betel vine.

Das is among 34 betel vine farmers, who handed over their betel vines to the administration today. All of them had participated in the protest meetings of PPSS.

PPSS activists, however, alleged that Posco and the district administration officials have managed to convince the poverty stricken farmers to give up their vines by promising them higher compensation compared to the payments made earlier.

The land acquisition process for Posco project, which was suspended for two days due to stiff resistance of villagers, resumed at Gobindpur village today amid tight security. Administration today demolished 34 betel vines in Manglapada area of Gobindpur. However, the officials could not progress to the border of Patana-Gobindpur villages, where nearly 50 betel vines still exist, due to protests by anti-Posco activists.

Hundreds of anti-Posco activists, armed with sticks, sickle and other arms, are sitting on a dharna at Patana village to prevent the entry of district officials to pull down their betel vines. They are joined by leaders of different Left leaning parties.

“No strategy has been devised yet to dismantle nearly 40 betel vines at Patana-Gobindpur village borderline,” said additional district magistrate, Paradip, Surjit Das.

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First Published: Wed, July 03 2013. 20:04 IST