At the protest site people see things differently. Jhulia Das is an elderly grower of betel — a vine leaf used to wrap a heady mix known as paan that is chewed by millions of Indians.
Cultivating betel, along with coconuts, rice and cashews, provides a small but steady income for thousands of families living near the proposed mill site. Das fears losing that.
The state of Odisha owns the sandy land for the steel plant by the Bay of Bengal, but farmers like Das have cultivated betel there for years. POSCO is paying US$21,500 per acre (US$53,127 per hectare) for the land and a small monthly allowance to farmers until the plant opens, when they are promised jobs.
Odisha straddles India’s mining belt and holds a third of the country’s iron ore reserves, a quarter of its coal, half its bauxite and more than 90 percent of its nickel and chromite. The state accounted for about a fifth of all industrial investment proposals in India in the past four years.
Since January 2008, Odisha has attracted investment proposals worth US$210 billion from Tata, Jindal and POSCO, along with global heavyweights such as ArcelorMittal and Vedanta Resources. All have faced protests and delays.