Indian police taken hostage in POSCO protest: report

NEW DELHI — Villagers opposed to South Korean giant POSCO’s planned $12-billion steel plant in eastern India took eight policemen and a driver hostage Saturday before freeing them hours later, a report said.

The policemen and driver were held for five hours before persuading the protesters that they had nothing to do with planned land acquisition for the project, the Press Trust of India quoted police as saying.

The nine, who were seized in Patana village in Dhinkia district in Orissa state, were freed unharmed, Additional Superintendent of Police Shantanu Das said.

India in early May gave final clearance to POSCO’s plant.

The plant — one of India’s biggest foreign projects since the launch of market reforms in 1991 — has faced fierce opposition from locals in Orissa who have been campaigning to save farmland and forests.

The deal has been seen as a test of the country’s openness to foreign investment.

Meanwhile, land acquisition work for the Posco project, originally announced in 2005, was progressing smoothly, the news agency said, quoting unnamed state government officials as saying.

Industrialisation has long been championed by India’s government as a way to drive growth and pull millions out of poverty, but land acquisition has often created battlegrounds between local groups and companies.

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