Anti-Posco protest flares up, 17 villagers arrested

Seventeen villagers in Orissa’s Jagatsinghpur district were today arrested for protesting land acquisition for the proposed $12-billion steel project by Korean major Posco.

Trouble started when revenue department officials engaged in the land acquisition process faced stiff resistance from the people when they tried to demolish betel vines in Noliasahi, a project-affected village.

Among those arrested was anti-Posco leader Basudev Behera and four women.

“The Kujang police has arrested 17 anti-Posco activists including four women and five children to avert tension at the Posco site and to conduct land acquisition work peacefully. Police is investigating the case,” District Superintendent of Police S Debdatta Singh said.

Basudev Pradhan, a Kujang revenue official, said: “The administration had served notification on the encroachers before 24 hours. Today’s incident has not affected land acquisition process as our team has demolished 41 betel vines and disbursed Rs 66 lakh towards compensation and Rs 1 lakh towards pulling down of five live trees”.

On Friday morning, the district administration asked the villagers of Noliasahi, Bhuiyanpal, Bayanalkanda and Polang of Gadkujang panchayat to hand over their betel vines, failing which their betel vines would be forcibly pulled down by the officials though a public address system. The anti-Posco activists led by Behera protested the demolition of the betel vines and also refused to hand over land for the Posco project.

They alleged the administration had forcibly demolished their betel vines without serving notification.

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