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Jun 20, 2007 at 02:26pm IST

Orissa: 3 POSCO officials held hostage

New Delhi: Three executives of South Korean steel major POSCO have been taken captive by anti-POSCO agitators at the proposed Rs 52,000 crore steel project site near Paradeep in Orissa.

The Korean company is acquiring land in the area to set up a plant and farmers have been agitating against this.

The three executives, including a woman, had gone to the area on Friday to negotiate directly with villagers to buy land for the project.

VIOLENT PROTEST: Hundreds of people including women and children had assembled near the site.

Activists of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), the body set up by the agitating villagers, later released the woman official identified as Rosalyn Parida, said POSCO sources.

Villagers of Dhinkia, Gadakujanga and Nuagan had been strongly opposing the location of the 12-mtpa project at the chosen site as it would require displacement of about 22,000 people.

POSCO's proposed site is fertile land, where paddy, betel vine and cashew nuts are grown.

It was decided at a meeting held at the PMO recently that POSCO would directly make contact with the people of the project site area for acquisition of their land.

Accordingly, POSCO officials had been venturing near the villages and had approached some people earlier as well.

The PPSS had erected bamboo gates at eight different points in the three panchayats while refusing entry to government officials, POSCO personnel and police.

As the three officials visited Gobindapur village to negotiate with the people, they were detained and their car was also seized.

Villagers say other executives will be released only if POSCO assures no one else will be sent to negotiate for land.

The villagers were agitated over the 'secret visit' of a group of five POSCO officials to the area on April 26.

(With inputs from PTI)