Mumbai’s ‘castaways’ still wait for home #tribals #indigenous


5 November 2012

By Zubair Ahmed BBC Hindi, Mumbai

Woman with water vessel on head walking along top of hill There is no water or electricity supply in the settlement and villagers have to walk for miles to get water

On the plateau of a verdant hill range, near India‘s commercial capital, Mumbai, rests a settlement of a small tribal community which has been waiting for five years for a permanent home.

But, its members feel they have been forgotten by the authorities.

At 21, Hemant Dhangar has a big responsibility of explaining the plight of his people to the wider world, because not only is he the only college-going youth in the community, he is also the most articulate.

He believes they have been long forgotten by the outside world.

“We don’t appear on the map, we don’t exist in official records. The administration, the political leaders, everyone seems to have overlooked us. We are a castaway community.”

This indeed seems to be true for the place has no water supply or electricity, it has no village council and there are no latrines, no schools and no post-offices.

It is just a cluster of random huts on top of a hill.

‘Temporary abode’

The tribespeople once had homes and engaged in farming.

But five years ago the administration uprooted them from their village in Thane, 30km (18 miles) away from their present settlement, to construct a dam.

The 200-odd families were offered a monetary compensation of 13,000 rupees ($234.84; £146.83) per acre of land and allowed to resettle on top of a plateau in the surrounding hills.

But Asra Nagar, as the inhabitants call their settlement, was to be a temporary abode.

Three young children at the settlement The community has set up a food co-operative to help feed their undernourished children

“We were told our stay here will be temporary. We were promised electricity, water supply, school and other amenities. But five years on, things have not moved,” says Shantaram, one of those who lost his home.

A woman, balancing a large pot on her head, is making a long trip to fetch water.

She is too shy to talk, but her husband says: “What else can we do? It’s a long walk down to the valley and steep walk up the hill. Some times it takes the whole day to fetch the water we need.”

Most of the men and women here work in quarries nearby, provided there is work.

For days though, there is none, which means many of the villagers are forced to sit around idly.

Food co-operative

Children here look under-nourished as food, specially healthy food, is in short supply.

No help ever reaches here so the villagers have decided to take matters in their own hands.

“We have set up our own little food co-operative for the children. We collect money every week from all the families in the settlement, the collection varies between 200 rupees ($3.61; £2.25) and 400 rupees. This is spent on buying milk and medicine for the children,” says Shantaram, a father of three.

Man sits in his home that is a temporary hut  The community has waited five years for permanent homes

The settlement is barely 150km (93 miles) from Mumbai and yet none of its residents have ever been to the big city.

“Is it true that Mumbai never sleeps? Do you meet film stars?” asks Mr Dhangar.

Mumbai and the region’s rapid economic development have passed this community by and actually, if anything, they are the victims of progress.

A recent visit by authorities to the area raised hopes among the residents that they might after all be able to secure permanent homes.

The tribal welfare ministry did not respond to our queries about the visit and what plans they may have for the community.

 

Turkish Police Use Tear-Gas Against Protesting Mothers , Where is Media ?


Written byRuwayda Mustafah Rabar, Nov 5, 2012, http://globalvoicesonline.org

Kurdish political prisoners have reached their 55th day of hunger strike. There are hundreds of political prisoners on hunger strike in Turkey, and this has led to solidarity protests throughout Europe, and in particular within Turkey. Earlier yesterday [November 4, 2012], the mothers of some of the political prisoners staged a sit-in, and were met with tear-gas, as well as water canisters was sprayed directly on them. Turkish mainstream media and governmental ministers remain oblivious to unfolding anger by Kurdish people, and their disregard for a political settlement of Turkey’s Kurdish question has made the situation worse.

In much of Kurdistan, there has been solidarity protests but despite the attention the hunger strikes have received within Kurdish regions, there are few mainstream media outlets reporting on the hunger strike. The lack of media coverage has angered many Kurds, who are being vocal on social networking sites. Hulya, from Liverpool, says:

@hulyaulas: The biggest political hunger strike in history by Kurdish political prisoners is being ignored in world’s media.

Dirman adds:

@dirman95: It is so hard to eat knowing that the hunger strike has been going on for over 51 days and the world is doing nothing about it… disgusting.

Al Jazeera’s The Stream has been the only internationally acknowledged mainstream outlet that has highlighted the gravity of the hunger strike. They have used their social media outlets to raise awareness. For example they recently tweeted:

@ajstream: Why has the government and Media in Turkey ignored the hunger strikes of 715 Kurdish political prisoners?

An online petition has been launched, with 3,451 supporters so far, that asks the Turkish government to engage in constructive dialogue with the prisoners. Judith Butler from Berkeley comments:

The Turkish government must enter into serious dialogue with these prisoners who now risk their lives to expose the injustice under which they live.

KurdishBlogger.com posted the following picture on Facebook.

Kurds in Slemani, South Kurdistan show solidarity with their Kurdish sisters and brothers (at least 682 inmates) who are on hunger strike in 67 prisons across Turkey.

 

And Tara Fatehi, a Kurdish activist in Australia, expressed her anger at the international community:

Thousands of Kurdish political prisoners have been on hunger strike in Turkey since Sept 12 and the International community remains silent. This is Kurdish hunger for freedom, it is not a new concept. The Kurds have been fighting for rights, peace and freedom for decades. Hannelore Kuchlersaid said it best “Kurdistan is a country taken hostage.” and whilst the international media want you to think this is solely about Abdullah Ocalan and the PKK, it is not. It’s about acquiring basic human rights in their own homeland.

Yes, China still harvests organs from executed prisoners #wtfnews


Posted by Max Fisher on November 5, 2012, Washington Post

Chinese police lead a condemned man into a special execution van to be put to death. (AFP/Getty Images)

China is the world’s leader in capital punishment, executing “thousands” every year, according to Amnesty International’s best guess of the officially secret statistic. A U.S.-based NGO estimates 4,000 executions in 2011 alone, which is actually half of their projected 8,000 in 2007. By comparison, second-ranked Iran used the death penalty 360 times in 2011. The U.S., ranked fifth, used it 43 times.

Another practice often accompanies China’s capital punishment: organ transplants. In 2009, government officials publicly acknowledged that executed prisoners provided over 65 percent of organ transplants. The health ministry also said that 10,000 organ transplant operations are performed annually.

The numbers are unsettling. We don’t know how many thousands of prisoners China executed in 2009, but if they provided organs for 65 percent of that year’s 10,000 surgeries, it would suggest most or perhaps close to all of the prisoners had their organs removed after their deaths.

The Chinese government has been working to reform its capital punishment system, which may explain how it could have cut the number of executions in half in only four years. Still, China uses a uniquely broad definition of what can receive the death penalty. Earlier this year, a 28-year-old woman was sentenced to death for defaulting on a $56 million loan. In past years, Chinese executions have been carried out with a single gunshot to the head, although the state is attempting to shift toward lethal injections. Because demand is high and the facilities can be expensive, the state deploys special police buses designed to administer the injection.

China is also working on reducing its addiction to death row organs. According to the 2009 BBC story, about 1.5 million people in China needed organ transplants at the time, a staggeringly high demand that was helping to drive a dangerous and criminal black market in illegal organ harvesting. The state was hoping to curb this by encouraging more voluntary donors, although officials acknowledged it would be difficult to overcome cultural taboos against the practice. (Presumably, the executed prisoners share these taboos.) They launched pilot programs in a few parts of the country to solicit voluntary organ donors.

Did the plan work? It’s not really clear as the state has not released data from the program. But, on Friday, officials announced that they would roll out the program nationwide sometime early next year, hoping to reduce the dependency on prisoners’ organs. The country’s goal is to abolish the practice outright within five years. Officials are also hoping to design a new system to fairly allocate transplants, a process that in the past has “been criticized as opaque, profit-driven and unethical,” as the Associated Press puts it.

IMMEDIATE RELEASE-Jan Sangharsh Morcha demands Immediate release of farmers, and activists in Chhindwada


JAN SANGARSH MORCHA

Madhya Pradesh

 Press release : 5/11/2012 / Bhopal

 

Jan Sangharsh Morcha demands Immediate release of farmers, and activists in Chhindwada arrested for protesting forcible eviction for Adani Pench Power Project.

 

Condemns displacement at gunpoint and demands transparency and due legal process for private investment in the so called development projects.

 

The arrest in Chhindwada on Sunday night, of Medha Patkar and 23 others reveals the ugly face of MP government’s hype on the recent Global Investors’ Meet and the strident solicitation of private sector investments. Investment at gunpoint, forcible displacement by the police, unlawful diversion of land, forest and water to industry, jailing of peacefully protesting activists is the truth behind the government’s investment programme.

 

Medha Patkar and others were arrested from the home of advocate Aradhana Bhargava a day after she herself was arrested. Medha and others had gone to Chhindwada following reports of heavy police build up in villages protesting Pench Water Diversion Project and threats that villagers would be forcibly evicted from the 4th of November. They were however not allowed to proceed to the affected areas and were forcibly detained in Chhindwada town, and were jailed last night. Adv Aradhana Bhargava, who was arrested on who has been active in a peaceful movement, ongoing since 2004, against forcible displacement and diversion of water by the Pench Diversion Project, and the Adani Pench Power Project. The Pench project alone will displace more than 31 villages and over 56,000 families, and villagers have been protesting that no proper rehabilitation has been offered to them. In addition to the diversion of village water resources to corporate concerns ,forest land and commons are also being handed over to Adani and other corporate houses without any due legal process.

 

The Pench Diversion Project does not even have environmental clearance from the MoEF, and its 1986clearance has lapsed.

Medha Patkar has begun an indefinite hunger strike in jail to protest these unlawful arrests.

 

Jan Sangarsh Morcha (MP) condemns the attempts by the MP government to sacrifice precious natural resources to corporate profits and the forcible eviction of farmers at gunpoint . The reality behind the MP govt.’s much –hyped development through private investment is that corporate loot is being facilitated without any due legal process, while the interests of farmers and other common citizens are being sacrificed .

The Jan Sangarsh Morcha calls upon the state govt. to protect the development interests of the people of the state instead of sacrificing their interest at the altar of corporate profits.

 

Narmada Bachao Andolan,Samajvadi Jan Parishad,Jagrit Dalit Adivasi Sangathan,Bargi Bandh Visthapit Sangathan,Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahilla Sangathan,M.P. Mahilla Manch,Shramik Adivasi Sangathan

 

 

Contact: Madhuri 09179753640

 

People’s Power Challenges State Power; Refuses to Bow Down to State Terror


 

Medha Patkar, Dayamani Barla, and others Bail Plea Not Heard Today

 

Chindwada / Narmada Valley / Jobat / Pune / Mumbai, November 5 : In a series of incidents various movements affiliated with National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) stood up to administration and state terror today. Bowing under the pressure from people and various quarters they have resorted to further illegalities and arrests. They have no answer to the truthful and peaceful struggles of people for their rights and justice.

 

Medha Patkar, National Convener was arrested late last night in Chindwara in Madhya Pradesh along with Mukesh Bhagoriya of Narmada Bachao Andolan, Rakesh, Devi Singh and others of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, who were forcefully evicted from Satyagraha site. Against this illegal arrest and administration’s refusal to allow any meeting with her lawyer or others Medha Patkar started hunger strike in the jail itself. She has slip disc and is in pain, a doctor was called for medical check up but she needs medical attention. Later in evening, City Magistrate K B Tripathi refused to accept bail application of Medha and ors citing administration pressure. When pressed to give in writing by layer D K Prajapati, Judge left the court. Lawyers have faxed a complaint with the bail application to the Chief Justice of Jabalpur High Court. As we write Collector Mahesh Choudhri has called for a dialogue with the activists. See details of the yesterday’s happenings here http://napm-india.org/node/818

 

Bail plea for Aradhana Bhargava was also filed today in Chaurai Court. Dr. Sunilam’s bail plea in Jabalpur High Court is yet to be filed. Preprations are ongoing at the moment. Situation in Chindwara continues to be tensed with police terrorising farmers and not allowing their entry in town or meeting with arrested activists.

 

Meanwhile, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Swami Agnivesh, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, Jan Sangharsh Morcha, National Forum of Forest People and Forest People, INSAF and other movement groups condemned the illegal arrest and high handedness of the police and MP government. People’s Union for Civil Liberties also apporached National Human Rights Commission seeking their immediate intervention in the matter.

Delhi Solidarity Group, AISA, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM and other groups have called for a demonstration infront of the Madhya Pradesh Bhawan in Delhi tomorrow, November 7th at 2:30pm.

 

Dayamani Barla’s Bail Plea Not Heard Today in Ranchi

 

Meanwhile, today Dayamani Barla’s bail application came for hearing but the Magistrate could not appear due to sickness. The matter has now been listed for November 8th hearing. Ranchi police has also now charged her with another case related to resistance against land acquisition for IIM Ranchi in Nangdi village, near Ranchi. Earlier in morning Dr. Sandeep Pandey, National Convener, NAPM went and met Dayamani Barla in jail and extended solidarity. http://napm-india.org/node/813

 

200 projects affected people arrested and produced in Court in Pune

 

In Pune, today 200 affected people from Wang Marathwadi dam, Lavasa Hill city project and 100 year old Tata dam in Pune district were arrested by police after they finished an hour and half long meeting with Divisional Commissioner, Prabhakar Deshmukh at his office. They had gathered infront of the DC office after giving adequate notice, but the DC refused to meet them. Later he met them after much persistence and gave assurances to take action on the issues pertaining to resettlement and rehabilitation for the Wang Marathwadi dam affected people who faced submergence in August and organised jal satyagraha against illegal submergence. DC also promised to provide the caste certificate to the tribals living in Lavasa hill city area whose land has been illegally acquired for the project. Activists also demanded action against the Lavasa corporation which is carrying on the construction in violation of the High Court and MoEF‘s stop work order. They also demanded that administration take action for regularization of 80 years settlements of the project affected people of Tata Dam in Lonavala area, since they have received eviction notices from the Municipal Corporation. It needs to be noted that Tata is holding 27,000 acres of extra land acquired from farmers but is not making available land for the projects affected families, who are now living in upper reaches of hills next to reservoir. However,, Tata’s have sold land to film stars and resorts for their profit, but district administration has refused to take action against this after many representations.

 

Suniti S R, National Convener, NAPM said that they will not seek bail from the Court and would rather go to jail. Activists continue to be in the Court as we write this.

 

Sion Koliwada, Mumbai Slum Rehabilitation Scheme Update

In a separate incidence, in Sion Kolidwada, Mumbai, Sahana group (Sudhakar Reddy’s) developer for the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme came under heavy police protection to fence the land including six houses which could not be demolished in May earlier this year. It needs to be noted that in May – June, Sion Koliwada faced demolitions and Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao activists were in jail for more than 10 days. Builders came today citing a court order and police provided them security on the same ground. “But what about other court order which says builder illegally got the deal in first place itself, why are you not taking action on that”, asks Madhuri Shivakar, GBGB activist who was herself in jail at that time. See NAPM’s earlier update on this issue http://www.napm-india.org/node/820 and http://napm-india.org/node/819

 

Narmada Bachao Andolan Reaps the Harvest at the Occupied Farm Land in Jobat

Today, nearly 400 quintal of Jowar and Maize produce was distributed amongst the adivasis affected by the Jobat and Sardar Sarovar dams. They have been collectively farming on the land occupied by the Narmada Bachao Andolan for more than a year now. NBA resorted to Zameen Haq Satyagraha in Jobat on the government agriculture farm since the adminsitration has failed to provide for resettlement and rehabilitation of the project affected people, inspite of several court orders and Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal. “We will continue to occupy the land and grow food on it until we get our due rights. Adivasis and farmers are being robbed of their possession and MP government is giving land tocompanies in investors meet. We will continue our struggle for rights of the people affected by dams on Narmada,” said Shrikanth of Narmada Bachao Andolan.

 

For details call : Madhuresh 9818905316 or write to napmindia@gmail.com

 

UNDP Online Portal for Decentralized Planning Launched #goodnews


05 November 2012

imagePHOTO: SEPHI BERGERSON/UNDP INDIA29 October 2012, New Delhi – The Planning Commission and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have launched a unique online portal http://www.nrcddp.org/ which brings together all the necessary guidelines and best practice processes required for undertaking participatory decentralized planning at district, block and village levels.

This portal will primarily function as a knowledge and information exchange gateway for policy makers, planners and practitioners engaged in decentralized planning. It will also provide a window on research, good practices, innovations, news, events and data on decentralized district planning and local governance at regional and global levels.

While over the last two decades, the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments have accorded greater constitutional status to urban and rural local governments, a number of challenges remain in ensuring the success of decentralized district planning in the country.

A key challenge is to develop knowledge and capacities of functionaries of panchayat and municipal bodies at district and state levels with regards to Acts, rules and guidelines on decentralized planning and governance; capacity development frameworks; technical approaches useful to enable decentralize planning; and good practices and learnings that are emerging from around the country.

As India enters the 12th Five-Year Plan period, where decentralized planning and governance are viewed seen as cross-cutting processes across programmes and public services, the portal aims to ensure decentralized planning and development management is knowledge-driven and dynamic

The portal was released by Shri Mihir Shah, Member Planning Commission and Lise Grande, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, India in the presence of senior representatives from state governments, and other UN agencies. It focuses on seven states – Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

The portal is run by the National Resource Cell for Decentralized District Planning (NRCDPP), a joint initiative by the Planning Commission and UNDP as part of the Government of India-United Nations Joint Programme on Convergence which promotes decentralized and convergent planning and development in the country.

Contact Information

Narendra Mishra  (Narendra.mishra@undp.org); +91-46532389

Contact Information:

 

In Bangkok:
Mr. Omar Siddique, Mobile (66 87) 337 2801, omar.siddique@undp.org

 

#Chhattisgarh Turns Back on Mining Industry- #goodnews


By Prasenjit Bhattacharya, India Real Time, Nov 5.2012

Reuters,Miners worked at a coal mine in Chhattisgarh, November 21, 2009.

Chhattisgarh –  one of India’s three largest mineral-producing states – has had enough of industries like mining, power, metals and cement.

The local government says it doesn’t want any more such projects, although the state has long relied on these industries for growth.

Instead, Chhattisgarh is keen on reinventing itself as a hub for making auto-parts, processed food, electronics and software, says Raman Singh, the state’s chief minister.  ”I have been telling investors in one-to-one meetings … that we are not interested in new projects in the core sectors,” Mr. Singh told the Wall Street Journal. Over the weekend, Mr. Singh hosted a two-day investors’ meet aimed at persuading companies, mostly domestic, to invest as much as $22 billion in the state.

The “core sector” is shorthand for mining, metals, cement and power generation businesses. The state’s large reserves of bauxite, coal and iron ore have attracted significant investment from state-run and private companies, including Coal India Ltd. 533278.BY +0.54% Vedanta Resources VED.LN -3.28% and Jindal Steel & Power Ltd. 532286.BY -2.04%

“A power project takes 10,000 crore rupees ($2 billion) to build but employs 700 people, while an IT company would invest just 10 crore rupees and employ 600. We want to bring in industries that create jobs,” said Mr. Singh, a senior politician with the Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition to the Congress-led central government.

Unemployment is a major problem in Chhattisgarh, a state that, despite its mineral wealth, is one of India’s poorest.

Endemic poverty is one of the reasons many locals support left-wing rebels, known as Maoists, who operate in the state and inhabit its densely forested areas. Chhattisgarh is a hotbed of rebels who claim they are upholding the land rights of local tribes and rural poor against the government and industrial interests.

Maoist rebels have opposed industrial and mining projects, which typically require large swathes of land, making it difficult for companies located in areas with strong Maoist presence to operate. Apart from Maoists, local villagers and tribals have also become increasingly vocal opponents of mining and power projects in mineral-rich states like Chhattisgarh.

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh at a press conference in Raipur, December 7, 2003.

As a result, Mr. Singh says that for the state to guarantee land and water to large mining or power projects “is not that easy.”

“Water and land are limited. How many projects can the state support?” said Mr. Singh. “The government has enough land for industries that don’t require much land, be it agriculture-based companies, auto or technology companies, so we are encouraging such investments,” he added.

Mr. Singh said that while the Maoist insurgency remains a problem, the government has been able to contain it. “The problem is being fought on two fronts. We are educating children in tribal villages so they don’t pick up guns later in life, but when insurgents kill people, the police can’t just stand and watch. So we fight back too.”

The inside of Mr. Singh’s modest bungalow in Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh, is crowded with security. Cameras and cell phones are not allowed inside the premises, which are patrolled by officials armed with walkie talkies.

It’s unclear how successful Chhattisgarh’s investment pitch will be. While Indian states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat and the Delhi have seen a steady flow of investment in recent years, security issues mean that states like Chhattisgarh are a tougher sell. Large Indian and global companies in technology and automobiles sectors stayed away from the investors’ meet over the weekend.

There is scope for investment in other sectors, like agriculture. Investors said that the state’s large production of fruits and vegetables is likely to be attractive for companies looking to make juices and other processed foods.

But can this really replace industries like mining in the state’s economy?

An Appeal-Maruti Suzuki Workers Union


 

Maruti Suzuki Workers Union

 

Inquilab Zindabad! Mazdoor Ekta Zindabad!

 

 

Support our Struggle

November 2, 2012

 

 

Friends and Comrades,

 

We, the workers of Maruti Suzuki, Manesar are facing one of the toughest times in our struggle, with 160 of our fellow workers languishing in jail for the last three months (including all the MSWU representatives), while 546 permanent and another 2000 contract and apprentice workers have been terminated from their jobs. We are waging a relentless struggle against the anti-labour Maruti management, and we are fighting it out in the court, as well as in the streets, with our legitimate demands for reinstatement of terminated workers, release of arrested workers and investigation into the incident of 18th july 2012 by an impartial authority.

As the struggle continues, we appeal to all to stand in support by contributing to the struggle fund.
You can send your contributions directly to:

Account no. 912010057524329

AXIS Bank
Branch: SCO-29, SECTOR-14, Near HUDA Office, Old Delhi-Gurgaon Road, Haryana, India.

IFSC Code : UTIB0000056 
Branch Code : 000056
MICR Code : 110211008

Joint account holders name:
Imaan Khan, Ram Niwas, Omprakash Jaat

 

Please inform us by email at: marutiworkerstruggle@gmail.com so that we could confirm that we received your contribution to the struggle fund.

Struggling greetings,
Provisional Working Committee, MSWU

 

World Medical Association strengthens opposition to capital punishment #deathpenalty


  • SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2012

The World Medical Association has strengthened its opposition to capital punishment with a resolution at its recent conference in Bangkok that “physicians will not facilitate the importation or prescription of drugs for execution.”
It also reaffirmed previous resolutions that “it is unethical for physicians to participate in capital punishment, in any way, or during any step of the execution process, including its planning and the instruction and/or training of persons to perform executions”, and that physicians “will maintain the utmost respect for human life and will not use medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat.”
In any case, campaigners against the death penalty in the US are successfully lobbying to block supply of lethal drugs for executions. Maya Foa, head of the lethal injection project at the anti-death penalty organisation Reprieve, told a conference in London in mid-October, “Executions in certain states can’t go ahead because they’ve run out of drugs and others are running out.”
Reprieve has launched what it calls a “Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath” for drug companies which pledge themselves not to supply lethal drugs for executions. Under the oath, companies pledge that:
“We dedicate our work to developing and distributing pharmaceuticals to the service of humanity; we will practice our profession with conscience and dignity; the right to health of the patient will be our first consideration; we condemn the use of any of our pharmaceuticals in the execution of human beings.”
1 US company, Hospira, still supplies a paralyzing agent, pancuronium, which is part of a 3-drug cocktail for executions. Reprieve says that this drug is cause for particular concern, as it renders prisoners unable to signal that they are suffering agonising pain as the final, lethal substance is injected.
Source: BioEdge, November 3, 2012

An open letter to the jury of The ET Awards for Global Excellence #Vedanta


This open letter has been put out by G. ANANTHAPADMANABHAN of Amnesty International (India)

Dear Mr Deepak Parekh, Mr Kumara Mangalam Birla, Mr K V Kamath, Mr Kris Gopalakrishnan, Mr A M Naik, Ms Chanda Kocchar and Mr Cyril Shroff,

We at Amnesty International India are deeply disappointed by your decision to give the Economic Times Business Leader of the Year 2012 award to Mr Anil Agarwal, Chairman of Vedanta plc.

The Business Leader award is given to individuals who have demonstrated “a strategic direction for success, and pursued a vision”. But Vedanta, in its efforts to have a bauxite mine opened at the Niyamgiri hills in Orissa and expand an aluminium refinery near Lanjigarh, has demonstrated an utter lack of both leadership and vision. What it has shown instead is a brazen disregard for Indian law and an utter lack of respect for the rights of local communities.

In August 2010, the Ministry of Environment and Forests rejected the Niyamgiri bauxite mine project after finding that it extensively violated forest and environmental laws and would abuse the rights of local communities, including the Dongria Kondh adivasi community. The Ministry also suspended the clearance for the expansion of Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery after an expert committee found it to be illegal. The Economic Times has itself gone on record to oppose the Niyamgiri bauxite mining plan.

Vedanta has since developed a human rights and sustainability policy framework which it claims is aligned to international standards and best practices. The ET awards jury has said that the perception of misgovernance in Mr Agarwal’s companies is worse than the reality. But new research by Amnesty International reveals that Vedanta’s violations are extreme and ongoing. A vast gap exists between Vedanta’s stated policy framework and its practices in Orissa.

Vedanta continues to ignore the views of the Dongria Kondh. Its claim that it has consulted local communities is not supported by evidence gathered by Amnesty International, including testimonies from the Dongria Kondh and the minutes of official meetings. Nor are these claims supported by the findings of two official expert panels appointed by the MoEF in 2010.

Vedanta’s claims that its processes and planning are in line with Indian laws are belied by testimonies from communities affected by the Lanjigarh refinery on the impact of pollution on their health and water sources, the acquisition of their farmlands without adequate compensation, and the loss of their livelihoods due to pollution and reduced access to common land.

Amnesty International has uncovered Vedanta’s failure to adequately address risks posed by the Lanjigarh refinery’s red mud ponds, and to disclose relevant information on the impact of actual pollution. This is compounded by the company’s failure to take appropriate remedial action.

An ongoing inquiry by the National Human Rights Commission has found that the local police were involved in framing false charges and suppressing dissent against those critical of Vedanta. The NHRC inquiry says that the police booked the project-affected villagers in false or exaggerated cases on several occasions, apparently at the behest of Vedanta.

All these facts call into question Vedanta’s stated commitment to address human rights concerns. Mr Agarwal has told the Economic Times: “We have to use our resources in a sustainable manner for our development.” But Vedanta has shown consistently that it is unwilling to do so.

Several supporters of Vedanta have revised their opinions after being alerted to its environmental and human rights abuses.

Since 2007, several institutional investors in Vedanta, including the Norwegian Pension Fund and the Church of England Pensions Board, have sold their stakes after expressing concern about the adverse impacts of the company’s work in Orissa.

Earlier this year, the UK’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and the British Safety Council suspended their awards to Vedanta after reports emerged of safety standards violations at the Lanjigarh refinery. Four months ago, the Oslo-based Business for Peace Foundation withdrew an award it was slated to give Mr Agarwal for ‘ethical business practices’ after it was informed about the details of Vedanta’s violations and human rights abuses.

We urge you to reconsider your decision to give the ET Business Leader of the Year award to Mr Anil Agarwal. To felicitate Vedanta through this award is to reward a history of human rights abuses, to ignore local communities’ campaigns for justice for rights abuses, and to betray the goals of the ET Corporate Excellence awards.

Yours sincerely,

G. Ananthapadmanabhan

Chief Executive, Amnesty International (India)