By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, September 14, 2021: After battling South Korean Steel giant, POSCO’s proposal to set up a 12 million ton steel plant in Jagatsinghpur district, the villagers from Dhinkia, Nuagaon, Gadakujanga and Balitutha gram panchayat have once again openly opposed the construction of an integrated plant by JSW Utkal Steel Ltd fearing the destruction of the local ecosystem and livelihoods of indigenous groups.

Now the locals have alleged that JSW Utkal Steel Ltd. Furnished false information and fake letters of representation during a public hearing regarding the setting up of a greenfield integrated steel plant. In fact, they has also filed an FIR application with respect to the 1,082 written representations sent in favour of the project before, during and after the public hearing on December 20, 2019. Their application revealed that many of the signatories in the representations are either illiterate or children, and in some cases did not even exist!

“The written representations in favour of the Project Proponent (PP) are all in the same format and deliberately written by the PP and their representatives. A small observation by any person with knowledge of Odia language can identify this,” said villagers’ letter dated September 13, 2021 addressed to the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) Chairman.

The letter gives details about the PP falsely incorporated the names of the individuals, who did not give their consent to be named in the official document. In fact, villagers were unaware that their names were used. Further, most villagers whose names were signed in English or Odia said they could not sign their name in either language. Similarly, the children named in the representations are between ages 10 and 13.

“Neither the children, nor their parents have any idea about the written representations sent with their names on it in support of the proposed project,” said villagers in the letter.

They also accused the local administration of trying to sabotage their voices and pleaded before the EAC Chairman to order a fair and transparent inquiry and reject the project and clearance for the same.

Earlier in early last decade, villagers including coastal farmers, fisher folk and other indigenous groups fought a prolonged battle against POSCO India Ltd. Leading to the death of four people, which incidentally drew global attention against the illegal public hearing conducted by the administration.

Among other things, it also highlighted the issues regarding resettlement and rehabilitation policy implementations, forest dweller rights, impact on traditional prolonged livelihood of betel wine.

The JSW Utkal Steel Ltd proposes to put up a crude steel production unit, a cement grinding unit and a 900 MW captive power plant in the same place where POSCO had proposed to set up its steel plant.

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