About 2,000 villagers protested against POSCO's planned $12 billion steel plant on Saturday, with women and children forming a human ring around the site. Local television carried footages of women and children folks lying down on the site, making a long human ring on Saturday.
Local opposition has long delayed the South Korean company building its 4 million tonnes plant, India's biggest foreign investment project, in the eastern state of Orissa. Protests have blocked infrastructure projects all across the country, reported Reuters.
POSCO signed the agreement for the mill in 2005 and it was scheduled to begin production by the end of 2011. Protests, environmental concerns and government inquiries into alleged illegalities at a related mining concession have delayed it.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh gave the plant clearance in January on certain conditions, including ensuring that tribal rights and forest protection laws are observed.
Orissa's government started acquiring land for the world's No. 3 steel company after the environment ministry's January approval. POSCO needs 4,000 acres (1,600 hectares) of land for the project.
Local officials tried to persuade the villagers to back away and not use women and children as human shields, the local media said. Around 500 policemen were deployed to tackle the protestors, roughly half of whom were women and children.
We will maintain maximum restraint, a senior police official, under the condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
The locals say that the POSCO mill will deprive them of their forest based livelihood. POSCO has refused to step back so far.
They did not move despite repeated warnings, special land acquisition officer N.C. Swain said. He added that the government had already bought 1,800 acres.
We will not allow them to enter into the site. We will continue our protest peacefully, Prasant Paikray, a protester, said. We will fight this battle until last breath, he said. Paikray accused the authorities of acquiring land forcibly.
ArcelorMittal, the world's No. 1 steel maker, has also faced years of delays in building several plants in India. Angry villagers are increasingly assertive in refusing to give up land for manufacturing plant, the report said.