PSPD in English Int. Solidarity 2008-03-07   1042

[Open Letter of Inquiry ]regarding Human Rights Violations during the Construction of the POSCO Steel Mill in India

Regarding Human Rights Violations
during the Construction of the POSCO Steel Mill in India

Ⅰ. Regarding POSCO’s still mill project in India

We believe that the recent, and continuing, violations of human rights and acts of violence at the Jagatsingpur region in the state of Orissa, where POSCO’s steel mill is scheduled to be built is not a temporary or accidental occurrence, but a reflection of the problems innate in the planning process for the construction of your steel plant.

1. In August of 2007, POSCO passed the Indian central government’s environmental impact assessment test. However, it remains questionable how objective the criterion for the assessment was, how much participation was guaranteed for stakeholders, and how transparent and independent the process was. We would like to ask whether you can make public the subject, criterion, time frame, and details of the economic impact assessment. If this is possible, we request that you make public all the relevant information.

2. Of the three villages that are currently encountering serious problems(딩카, 누가온, 가드쿠장), 가드쿠장 underwent and finished, from the 7th to the 9th of February, 2008, a socio-economic survey and land boundary demarcation process carried out by the Orissa state government for the 1,035 households in the village. We believe that this was a technical survey for compensations, and not a socio-economic impact assessment for sustainable development. We would like to ask whether POSCO or relevant agents ever ran a socio-economic impact assessment regarding the potential effect the construction of the steel mill could have on the residents of the three villages. If it has, we request to see the results and contents of the assessment.

3. Large scale development projects necessarily have immense effects on the residents in the area. Particularly when such projects are related to the rights of the residents to their land, violations or limitations on such rights can have serious repercussions. We would like to ask whether POSCO or relevant agents ever ran a human rights impact assessment in the areas that could be potentially affected, and if so, would also like to request that the contents be made public. We also request that POSCO make clear its position on the rights that residents have on the land which they live on.

4. It has been reported that POSCO has been willing to provide more than what the Orissa state government has been offering the residents for compensation and relocation fees. However, what needs to be clarified is whether POSCO entered into sincere and serious dialogue with the residents, and if not, what the reasons were.  We would like to enquire what the contents of the negotiations regarding relocation and compensation were, and to what extent and form efforts for dialogue and negotiations with the residents took place. It has always been our position that POSCO should negotiate sincerely, on an equal level, with the villagers and we urge them to do so this point in time as well.

5. It is well known that the India’s supreme court has acted as a check on the economic policies of the central and state government that have put a priority on development in the interests of environmental protection or sustainable development. Recently, an experts’ committee at the supreme court has presented the opinion that the entire project that POSCO has agreed to with the state of Orissa(steel mill, mines, dock) through an MOU needs to undergo a change of usage feasibility study. We request that POSCO present its position on the expert committee’s opinion that a feasibility study regarding the change of use of the forest area needs to be done with the view to protecting the environment and guaranteeing sustainable development.

Ⅱ. Regarding the recent violence

6. Despite the on-going violence, POSCO has not made its view on the issue public, and the Orissa state government continues stand idle while its police force surrounds the villages. Some press reports have characterized the violence as clashes between residents that are for and against the steel mill, but Amnesty International’s statement that it is an attack on protesting residents by privately hired forces seems more convincing. POSCO needs to come forward with a clear position regarding the violence. We request that POSCO state clearly its view of the violence that has surfaced related to its project in India, from a corporate social ‘responsibility’ perspective.

7. POSCO has strongly asserted that it will begin construction for the steel mill on the 1st of April, 2008: the 40th anniversary of its establishment. We can inferr from the contents of the MOU that it has signed with the Orissa state government that POSCO must have pushed hard for the Orissa government to enforce land expropriation. We request that POSCO make public what demands/request it made to the Orissa state government regarding the 3 villages currently at issue, and also what relevant information it has received from the government.

8. It is possible to say that the primary beneficiary from the steel mill would be POSCO. Orissa can agree to do the same project with other corporations, but it is not easy for POSCO to implement something similar elsewhere. Therefore the POSCO employees in Orissa are facing a lot of pressure from the POSCO executives in Korea. We would therefore like to enquire how much the POSCO employees in India, as well as the executives in Seoul, knew about the violence beforehand, and how much they have been informed afterwards. We also request information on what measures POSCO has taken after it became aware of the violence.

9. POSCO has stated that it has nothing to with the expropriation and foced evictions that are ongoing in the relevant villages. However, there are reports that POSCO employees have been in and out of these villages. We request information on what activities POSCO has been engaged in at the three villages(or what plans it has), and whether there has been any cooperation or support from the Orissa state government during this process.

10. Damages  by the villagers from the violence are extensive, and there are reports that the villages continue to be surrounded by police forces. 포Even if POSCO is legally free from any responsibility, we would like to ask whether, as one of the de facto sources of the current violence, it is willing to express its official regret at the incidents in region, compensate the residents for damages, oppose the blockade by police around the villages, and come up with a plan to prevent similar incidents from reoccurring in the future. If POSCO does have such intentions or plans, we would like to request that it make them public.

We hope for a detailed answer to these questions.             

February 19th 2008

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