Authorities in the state of Odisha, India, must provide immediate remedy and reparation to families forcibly evicted in Jagatsinghpur district for a project proposed by South Korean steel company POSCO, Amnesty International India said today.
"These evictions were unlawful and have devastated the livelihoods of thousands of people," said Shashikumar Velath, Director of Programmes at Amnesty International India.
"Authorities acquired land without engaging in genuine consultation with affected persons, or providing adequate notice or adequate compensation. They have been violating the rights of these villagers for years. They must now ensure that the affected families receive effective remedies."
Officials from the Odisha government and police resumed forced evictions on 28 June 2013 in continuing efforts to acquire land for the project. On the same day, police personnel baton-charged protestors, injuring at least 20 people.
On 4 July, Satya Kumar Mallick, the head of the Jagatsinghpur district administration, told Amnesty International India that acquisition of 1092 hectares for the first phase of the project had been completed, and authorities would now begin digging trenches to demarcate the acquired land.
Most of the area contained betel vineyards on common land - village property that falls under the authority of local bodies and is intended to be used by local communities - which many families depend on for their livelihoods.
According to Mallick, all farmers in the area had been consulted and given compensation – a one-time fixed cash payment – for land seized, and farmers had “voluntarily" dismantled their betel vines. But local activists and some residents say that they were not consulted or given adequate notice, and that those who refused compensation had their land seized under physical duress without their consent.
"We don’t need their compensation; we want to lead our lives in peace without fear of being beaten, displaced or arrested," said Ranjan S, a resident of Gobindpur village.
According to the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development based evictions and displacement, all persons threatened with or subject to forced evictions have the right to timely remedy which includes a fair hearing, access to legal counsel, legal aid, return, restitution, resettlement, rehabilitation and compensation.
“The central and state governments have a duty to respect and protect the rights of these communities, and they need to act accordingly,” said Shashikumar Velath.
"For starters, victims of forced evictions must have access to effective remedies and the right to reparation.
"POSCO must carry out a comprehensive human rights impact assessment in consultation with local communities.
"Authorities must recognize individual and community claims to land, carry out genuine consultation with those affected, and only carry out further evictions as a last resort, as required by international standards," said Shashikumar Velath.
"Any unnecessary use of force or other rights violations committed by the police must be investigated and those responsible, including those with command responsibility, should be held to account," said Shashikumar Velath.
"Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies have a responsibility to respect all human rights. POSCO must ensure that it takes steps to become aware of, prevent and address the adverse human rights impacts linked to land acquisition for its project."
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