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The Price of Steel: Human Rights and Forced Evictions in the POSCO-India Project

Abstract: 

Produced by ESCR-Net and the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) at NYU School of Law, the report documents the human rights abuses being carried out to facilitate the establishment of the POSCO-India project and the forcible eviction of some 22,000 people in the state of Odisha.

 

The Price of Steel: Human Rights and Forced Evictions in the POSCO-India Project documents the human rights abuses being carried out to facilitate the establishment of the POSCO-India project, and the associated illegal seizures of land which threaten to forcibly displace as many as 22,000 people in India’s eastern state of Odisha. The report, produced by ESCR-Net and the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) at NYU School of Law, calls for a suspension of the POSCO-India project and a halt to the human rights abuses. Download the press release (English)

Worth approximately US$12 billion, the POSCO-India project represents the largest single foreign direct investment in India to date, and will require more than 12,000 acres, including approximately 4,000 acres for an integrated steel plant and captive port in an area home to longstanding forest-dwelling communities and a vibrant and sustainable local economy centered around betel leaf cultivation.  For the past eight years, through sustained and peaceful opposition, affected communities—including betel leaf farmers, fisherfolk, and Dalits—have effectively stalled the project and resisted their forcible evictions from lands they have cultivated for generations.   

The report finds that India’s attempts to forcibly evict these communities stand in violation of international and domestic law. International legal standards require that India exhaust all feasible alternatives to forced evictions; engage in genuine consultation with project-affected communities; ensure the provision of adequate compensation for affected properties; and follow procedures established by law.  India has systematically failed to live up to each and every one of these standards.

In addition, under India’s Forest Rights Act, the government must secure the consent of forest dwelling communities before diverting forested land.  Affected communities have passed several village resolutions fervently rejecting the diversion of land for the POSCO-India project, resolutions that the Indian government has effectively ignored. 

Indian authorities have actively targeted those who speak out against the POSCO-India project with violence and arbitrary arrests and detentions. Local police have barricaded villages, occupied schools, leveled thousands of homes, allegedly fabricated criminal charges against individuals opposing the project, and refused to protect individuals from consistent and sometimes fatal attacks by private actors who are allegedly motivated by the interests of the company and of the State. 

As a result of these abuses, for the past eight years, entire communities in the project-affected area have been living under siege and have suffered clear violations of their rights to security of person and freedom of movement; their rights to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention; and their right to be free from discrimination—particularly on the basis of political or other opinions. Living under siege has also resulted in significant disruptions to many villagers’ ability to access health care, schools, markets, and crops, undermining their rights to health, education, work, and food.   

The report urges:

  • The Indian government to suspend the POSCO-India project until and unless it complies with all international human rights standards and domestic law; cease all attempts at forced evictions and land acquisition; cease the excessive use of force and of arbitrary arrests and detentions; and ensure project-affected communities unencumbered access to health care, education, work, and adequate food. 
  • The Republic of Korea to take all necessary steps to ensure that POSCO respects human rights throughout the course of its activities, including by establishing a legislative framework to regulate the overseas activities of Korean companies. 
  • POSCO and its wholly-owned subsidiary, POSCO-India, to fully implement its commitment to uphold human rights; comply with all relevant domestic laws; and provide for or cooperate in the remediation of any adverse impacts to date. 
  • POSCO’s international investors—including Berkshire Hathaway (whose CEO is Warren Buffett), ABP, Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), Bank of New York Mellon, Blackrock, Deutsche Bank, and JPMorgan Chase—to leverage their influence as investors to ensure that POSCO respects the rights of all communities affected by the POSCO-India project

Download the full English version

Download the Korean language version of the Executive Summary

Download the press release (English)

Download the press release (Korean)

Read an Open Letter to Naveen Patnaik, Cheif Minister of Odisha, from ESCR-Net and the IHRC sent on July 3, 2013