Paradip: School children took centre stage at the anti-Posco agitation on Wednesday in the proposed plant site in Jagatsinghpur district as Odisha government renewed its land acquisition drive for the fourth consecutive day.
    
As the government began the land acquisition drive for the day amid heavy police deployment, hundreds of school kids abstained from classes and joined the anti-Posco agitation demanding immediate withdrawal of police force from the area.
    
"We have not asked the children to come here. Their parents send them to the agitation," said Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) president Abhay Sahu, who has been sitting on a hunger strike since yesterday opposing the alleged forcible land acquisition.
    
PPSS, a CPI-backed agrarian outfit, had been opposing the Rs 52,000-crore Posco project since the South Korean steel major signed an agreement with the Odisha government on June 21, 2005.
    
All schools in Dhinikia, Patana and Gobindpur villages wore an empty look as the children joined the stir before arrival of CPI National Secretary D Raja.
    
The children took out a procession shouting slogans against government and Posco from Patana village to Gobindpur-Mangala Chhak, where about 300 police personnel were camped since Sunday.
    
Besides children, women also participated in the anti-Posco agitation which has entered a decisive phase. "We are ready to sacrifice lives for protection of our land and house," PPSS women wing chief Manorama Khatua said.

"We have started land acquisition on Wednesday peacefully. The administration demolished betel vines of farmers who have given written request for the same. Though villagers are in support of the project, a handful of outsiders create problem here," Jagatsinghpur district collector S K Mallick told reporters.
    
Superintendent of Police, Jagatsinghpur, Satyabrata Bhoi blamed Sahu and accused him of instigating the villagers against land acquisition. "Police has been maintaining maximum restraint and not responding to the provocation of the agitators. There is absolutely no violence," the SP said.
    
Asked on the reason behind the heavy deployment of force in villages, the SP clarified, "Police has been providing security to the people who voluntarily offer their land for the project. PPSS activists threaten the villagers who give their land for the project."
    
Police also accused the PPSS of involving kids in the agitation and using them as a shield.
    
Meanwhile, leaders of various political parties reached the proposed plant site area as a mark of solidarity towards the protestors.
    
"We are not opposed to Posco project, but we are against the location of the proposed steel plant. We demand shifting of the location," Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president Niranjan Patnaik said.

(Agencies)

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