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Odisha govt not to return 2700 acres of acquired land back to forest dwellers, "reserves" it for industry

Construction of wall around forest dwellers' land in progress
By Our Representative
In an unusual development, the Odisha government has decided not to return 2,700 acres of land it had acquired from forest dwellers for the multinational corporation, Posco, for its land bank for “future industrial purpose”, one reason why it has begun constructing a boundary wall around it.
The development takes place even as Posco has begun the process of handing over the 2,700 acres of land acquired by the Odisha government for setting up 12 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) steel plant at an investment of Rs 52,000 crore. it was recently forced to abandon the project on losing legal battle to the local forest dwellers.
Odisha’s Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), one of the foremost NGOs which campaigned for the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 and its implementation, said, the Odisha government is “forcibly raising boundary wall over forest land acquired for Posco”.
In a statement, CSD said, the land belongs to the forest dwellers, and it for them, living in seven villages in Jagatsinghpur district, to decide on what to do with the land.
According to CSD, the withdrawal of Posco from the site is due to “consistent resistance of the local people led by Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), and after Posco’s withdrawal, the Odisha government should respect the sentiments of the local people.”
“FRA, 2006 recognizes Gram Sabha as Gram Sabha Sarkar over forest land, and since all the 2,700 acres of land the Odisha government is said to have been acquired for Posco is revenue forest land, falling within the revenue boundaries of seven affected villages, it should be recognized as community forest resource under FRA”, CSD insisted.
So far different official committees – including the Saxena Committee and the Posco Enquiry Committee – have found that FRA has been violated in the Posco area. Besides, on several occasions, the gram sabhas of the area have passed majority resolutions against any handover of their lands.
According to reports, the Odisha government;s High Level Clearance Authority has decided to hand over the 2,700 acres land, acquired through Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation of Odisha (IDCO) for Poscow, to JSW Steel Limited.
“For ten years the people of the area have been struggling against the illegal seizure of their lands. If it hands these lands over to Jindal Steel instead of Posco, the government will be committing a further criminal offence under the FRA, 2006”, SCD said.
CSD convenor Gopinth Majhi said, “The government keeps claiming that the people in these villages support these projects. If so, why has the government not recognized their rights and taken the consent of the affected gram sabhas, as required under FRA? Why has it ignored all the majority resolutions passed by gram sabhas against any handover of these lands?”
In May 2013, the National Green Tribunal, taking a view on the cyclone sensitivity in the area, asked the Odisha government to stop Posco felling of around 200,000 for implementing its steel project. However, Posco decided to withdraw from the project in March 2017 after it lost legal battle.

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