Vedanta HQ in London mobbed by Protesters, as SC gives Gramsabha Powers to decide


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Protest at Vedanta HQ as Supreme Court decision announced

Indian Supreme Court judges today handed the final decision on Vedanta’s Niyamgiri mine to the Dongria Kond tribe and farmers living around the mountain. Two Gram Sabha’s (village councils) or local self-government within 10km of the proposed mine should announce their decision to the Ministry of Environment and Forests within three months1. The decision will have a major financial and reputational impact on Vedanta and may force them to close their Lanjigarh refinery, costing them billions.

In London, activists from Foil Vedanta and other grassroots groups descended on Vedanta’s nominal Mayfair headquarters later today celebrating what they see as a victory for local self-determination, but calling for thorough independent oversight of the decision making process which they say is wide open to abuse by Vedanta officials and state police. They held a loud noise demonstration, and held a banner stating ‘MoEF: No u-turn on Niyamgiri’ while shouting slogans with a large megaphone. The protesters again called for Vedanta to be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for poor corporate governance and human rights crimes.

Protesters in London today staged a loud protest at Vedanta’s headquarters in reaction to the Supreme Court’s judgement to leave the final decision on Niyamgiri to the people affected, which they see as a victory for self-determination and tribal rights. They again added their voice to demands by parliamentarians and financiers that Vedanta is de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for its poor corporate governance, illegal operations and major human rights violations such as those committed at Niyamgiri.(1)(2) In January Foil Vedanta handed documentation on a variety of abuses to the Financial Services Authority who are now investigating the company’s abuses and the case for de-listing2. In February David Cameron again used his India visit to pressure Indian PM Manmohan Singh to allow Vedanta’s Niyamgiri mine.

Foil Vedanta’s Samarendra Das says:

For ten years Vedanta has harassed local people and committed major abuses and illegalities in its attempt to push this flagship project through. For ten years farmers, Dalits and Adivasis living around Niyamgiri have fought to save their traditional communities and their sacred mountain, from a mine which would give just four and half years worth of bauxite for the 6 million ton per year refinery as planned by Vedanta Aluminium.

The Supreme Court is right that decision on the mine should be with those affected by it – the ancient inhabitants of the mountain. But the Dongria and others have stated their disagreement over and over again through Gram Sabha’s and mass rallies. We know that Vedanta officials have been very active in lobbying the judges leading up to this decision, and are concerned that the villagers will be under heavy harassment from Orissa state and Vedanta officials. We call for many independent observers to oversee this crucial process.

We demand that Vedanta is now de-listed from the London Stock Exchange in recognition of it’s proven abuses of law and Human Rights.”

The judgement states that the decision making process at local councils will be overseen by a judge appointed by the Orissa High Court. Vedanta officials and police have been repeatedly accused of trying to force villagers not to oppose the project in the past. As Dongria Kond activist Lado Sikaka states:

“We will continue our fight even if Vedanta gets permission. Are these Judges above the Law? In effect, they act as if they are. Niyamgiri belongs to us. We are fighting because We are part of it. Our women are harassed and we are called by the police and threatened not to go to rallies. Last month they have been working like Vedanta’s servants.3

The ultimate decision will now rest with the Ministry of Environment and Forests who will accept the local council’s decision within three months(3). The Ministry banned the mine in 2010 after the N.C. Saxena committee warned that mining in Niyamgiri will severely affect the ecology and the habitat of the primitive Dongria Kondh tribe that lived on the mountain slopes. In February the Ministry again stated that they would not allow the Niyamgiri mine as Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran told the Supreme Court “We are completely against the mining operations.4

Senior Counsel, Sanjay Parikh, who has fought the case for the Dongria Kond said today:

“The historic judgement delivered by the Supreme Court today recognises the community, cultural and religious rights of tribals. The Dongria Konds can now establish the abode of their Niyam Raja. The Supreme Court verdict is significant as it recognises the rights of tribals against mighty mutlinational corporations”.

Vedanta is currently at a shareholder confidence low, as Societe General downgraded their shares to BB- or ‘sell’ status several weeks ago and suggested that they are unlikely to get permission to mine Niyamgiri5while Standard and Poor have also downgraded Vedanta’s shares to BB6. Societe General’s recent report states:

‘Niyamgiri bauxite reserves were central to Vedanta’s aggressive expansion plans in aluminum…Vedanta’s management was overly confident and committed too much capital without getting all the relevant clearances7.’

Vedanta are also in more trouble as a major acid gas leak earlier this month led to mass protests at Vedanta’s copper plant in Tamil Nadu, India, which have forced the plant to close until the National Green Tribunal has made a recommendation on whether it should be allowed to re-open at all. Their report is expected on 29thApril8.

The Niyamgiri project has been racked with controversy from the start, as a spate of recent coverage points out: The Lanjigarh refinery built to process the bauxite from the hills was illegally constructed, the court case presided over by a judge with shares in the company, and the refinery should never have been given permission without including the associated mega mine in impact assessments9. A cover story in major Indian glossy Open Magazine in December details evidence of corruption and collusion between Vedanta and the Odisha state government, local officials, judges and the police to force the project through10.

See the video of today’s demo here, and another short clip here.

More photos on demotix here.

See video of celebrations on Niyamgiri mountain as the verdict was delivered and an interview with Kumuti Majhi here.

Press Coverage:

SC grants Gram Sabha power to decide the fate of Vedanta refinery

 

Global protests against #Vedanta


January 13, 2013 By 

People across the globe have registered their protests against Vedanta once again. On January 11, parallel demonstrations took place in Orissa, London and New York where activists in hundreds raised slogans and upheld placards to denounce the corporate annexations of  indigenous peoples’ lands.

From Niyamgiri hills, more than 500 people turned up at a rally which covered about two kilometers in the Bhawanipatna town. Resistance movements in Lanjigarh have also inspired tribal representatives of Karlapat region whose mountains are now being targeted by the mining companies. In this rally, several people who were cheated of their lands narrated the atrocities and tortures they faced from Vedanta highhandedness in Lanjigarh. They also gave an account of how the company goons and the local police routinely harass the women in the afflicted areas.

Orissa

In solidarity with the indigenous peoples of Orissa, a loud group of protesters from Foil Vedanta and other grassroots groups mobbed the company’s Mayfair headquarters in London the same day. Holding a banner that read “FCA: de-list Vedanta”, the demonstrators called for the Financial Conduct Authority to remove Vedanta from the London Stock Exchange for poor corporate governance and human rights crimes.

London

Likewise, in New York City, protesters gathered outside the United Nations headquarters to highlight the company’s human rights crimes, displaying placards that read: “Our Mountain! Our Rights! Vedanta: Give Up!” and “Dongria Kond’s Niyamgiri: Hands Off!”

New York

Simultaneously, the Supreme Court of India has deferred its final verdict on Vedanta’s planned mega-mine until 21st January. If permission to mine is denied Vedanta is likely to close its Lanjigarh refinery due to lack of bauxite costing them billions. On Sunday the Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh plans to visit the threatened mountain to visit the Dongria Kond.

Various grassroots groups including Phulbari Solidarity Group, Japan Against Nuclear, Tamil Solidarity and London Mining Network, along with Foil Vedanta gathered at Vedanta’s London headquarters to add their voice to recent pressure for Vedanta to be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for its poor corporate governance, illegal operations and major human rights violations. They shouted ‘Vedanta out of London’ and blew horns and whistles. Several parliamentarians and the former CBI Director Richard LambertLondon have highlighted how Vedanta’s listing is used for legal immunity to hide their corporate crimes.

At the Supreme Court in Delhi today lawyers for Vedanta dwelled on the ongoing demonstrations in London, asking why people are protesting there, and claiming that India is suffering because of this. Judges noted that this is not relevant to the case and pointed out that people have a right to protest. Foil Vedanta’s spokesperson reacted:

“Vedanta is a London listed company and profits from this affiliation. It is typical of Vedanta to assume they are above the law and above public accountability. We will continue to draw attention to their corporate crimes here in London”.

Activists at the rally in Bhawanipatna chanted “Vedanta go back: water, land and forest ours. We are Supreme people of the supreme court” while dalit leader Surendra Nag spoke about the loss of land and livelihood for local people, some of whom have ended up as beggars. One man spoke of how his whole family had been tortured by company goons and they had lost 6 acres of land to the company without compensation.

The project has been racked with controversy from the start, as a spate of recent coverage points out: The Lanjigarh refinery built to process the bauxite from the hills was illegally constructed, the court case presided over by a judge with shares in the company, and the refinery should never have been given permission without including the associated mega mine in impact assessments. The Delhi High Court is also currently investigating the large donations from Vedanta to India’s two main political parties which could be deemed illegal as Vedanta is a foreign (British) company.

A cover story in major Indian glossy Open Magazine in December details evidence of corruption and collusion between Vedanta and the Orissa state government, local officials, judges and the police to force the project through. Meanwhile Vedanta’s chairman and 56.7% owner Anil Agarwal has launched a rare PR crusade claiming that Vedanta ‘have not cut one tree’ and respects and preserves the rights of the protesting indigenous tribe living on the threatened mountain. He sets out his extractive philosophy for India – suggesting that exploration should be drastically increased and regulation decreased to provide for the domestic market for metals and oil.

If Vedanta loses the case to allow state owned company Orissa Mining Corporation to mine the mountain on their behalf they may have to close the dependent Lanjigarh refinery costing them billions. Under enormous pressure from Vedanta the Orissa government has suggested alternative bauxite supplies from a deposit located in a major wildlife sanctuary and tribal area at Karlapat arousing anger and opposition from grassroots groups.

The court’s decision rests on whether the Green Bench of India’s Supreme Court rules the rights of forest dwellers to be ‘inalienable or compensatory’. In view of this, India’s Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo has asked the Environment Minister to ensure the rights of forest dwellers is protected in the spirit of the Forest Dwellers Act.

Speaking about the verdict, Dongria Kond activist Lado Sikaka states: “We will continue our fight even if Vedanta gets permission. Are these Judges above the Law? In effect, they act as if they are. Niyamgiri belongs to us. We are fighting because We are part of it. Our women are harassed and we are called by the police and threatened not to go to rallies. Last month they have been working like Vedanta’s servants.”

Foil Vedanta’s Samarendra Das says:

“Vedanta is not the only mining company that should be de-listed for their corporate crimes. Infamous London listed offenders Lonmin in South Africa, Monterrico in Peru, GCM in Phulbari and Bumi in Indonesia should also be investigated for extensive human rights atrocities.”

 

Protest at Vedanta headquarters


HASAN SUROOR, The Hindu

Protesters from ‘Foil Vedanta’ and several other campaign groups carried banners highlighting the tribals’ concerns over the environmental threat from Vedanta’s mining activities.
The HinduProtesters from ‘Foil Vedanta’ and several other campaign groups carried banners highlighting the tribals’ concerns over the environmental threat from Vedanta’s mining activities.

Rights activists on Friday held a noisy protest outside the London headquarters of the mining group Vedanta Resources, an FTSE 100 company, calling for it to be delisted from the London Stock Exchange because of its controversial trade practices and human rights record.

The protest coincided with similar demonstrations in India and America.

The company is embroiled in a controversy over its plans to mine tribal land in Orissa regarded sacred by the Dongria Kondh tribe.

Protesters from ‘Foil Vedanta’ and several other campaign groups carried banners highlighting the tribals’ concerns over the environmental threat from Vedanta’s mining activities.

“Vedanta is a London listed company and profits from this affiliation. It is typical of Vedanta to assume they are above the law and above public accountability,” a ‘Foil Vedanta’ spokesperson said.

 

Call for action: Kick #Vedanta out of London for it’s corporate crimes, murder and destruction. @Jan 11, 2013


Declare solidarity with grassroots movements fighting Vedanta in India, Africa and elsewhere!

Kick Vedanta out of London for it’s corporate crimes, murder and destruction.

Noise demonstration and picket at Vedanta headquarters, 16 Berkeley Street.
Mayfair, W1J 8DZ . Green Park tube.

1 – 3pm. Friday 11th January., 2013 


On Friday 11th January the Supreme Court will finally announce its historical decision on whether to allow the mining of the threatened Niyamgiri mountain in Odisha, India(1). Simultaneously tribals and farmers from a number of grassroots organisations(2) will hold a rally of defiance in Bhawanipatna, near the mountain. They will call for closure of the sinking Lanjigarh refinery and an absolute ban on the so-far-unsuccessful attempt to mine bauxite on their sacred hills(3).

On 10th of January activists in New York will rally outside the United Nations Headquarters pointing out Vedanta’s clear violations of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including right to participate in decision making, right to water and cultural and religious rights. They will call for the Indian Government to put a final stop to this contested project, and for the state owned Orissa Mining Corporation to be pulled out of dodgy deals it has made with Vedanta in an attempt to force the mine through the courts on Vedanta’s behalf.

Here in London we will draw attention to Vedanta’s nominal Mayfair headquarters from which they gain a cloak of respectability and easy access to capital. We will call for Vedanta to be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange and thrown out of its cosy position in the London corporate elite for proven human rights and environmental abuses, corruption and poor corporate governance(4).

Please join us and bring drums, pots and pans and anything that makes noise!
Our solidarity demo on 6th Dec was covered in all the Indian papers and our solidarity was felt directly. Let us do it again!
See you there! More information below.

More information:

(1) The Supreme Court is due to make a final decision on the challenge posed to the Environment Ministry’s stop to the Niyamgiri mine on 11th January. In its December 6th hearing the Supreme Court concluded that the case rested on whether the rights of the indigenous Dongia Kond’s – who live exclusively on that mountain – could be considered ‘inalienable or compensatory’. The previous ruling by Environment and Forests minister Jairam Ramesh in August 2010 prevented Vedanta from mining the mountain due to violations of environment and forestry acts. The challenge to this ruling has been mounted by the Orissa Mining Corporation, a state owned company with 24% shares in the joint venture to mine Niyamgiri with Vedanta, begging questions about why a state company is lobbying so hard for a British mining company in whom it has only minority shares in this small project. (see http://infochangeindia.org/environment/features/niyamgiri-a-temporary-reprieve.html)

On 6th December, in anticipation of a final Supreme Court ruling, more than 5000 tribals and farmers rallied on the Niyamgiri mountain and around the Lanjigarh refinery sending a message that they would not tolerate the mine or the refinery. In London Foil Vedanta held a noise demo outside the Indian High Commission in which a pile of mud was dumped in the entrance. This news was carried all over India by major papers and TV and had a significant impact (see London protesters join 5000 in India to stop mine).

(2) Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti, Sachetana Nagarika Mancha, Loka Sangram Mancha, Communist Party of India and Samajwadi Jan Parishad will coordinate the rally in Odisha on the 11th Jan.

(3) The Lanjigargh refinery was built at the base of Niyamgiri and assessed for environmental and social impact without taking into account the intention to mine the hill above for bauxite to run the plant. However, obtaining permission to mine the mountain has been much more difficult than Vedanta supposed and has left them running Lanjigarh at a loss, leaving Vedanta Aluminium with accumulated debt of $3.65 billion. (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-27/vedanta-awaits-bauxite-to-revive-9-billion-aluminum-project.html)

(4) Vedanta was described in Parliament by Labour MP Lisa Nandy as ‘one of the companies that have been found guilty of gross violations of human rights’ . Ms Nandy in her speech quoted Richard Lambert the former Director General of the CBI: ‘It never occurred to those of us who helped to launch the FTSE 100 index 27 years ago that one day it would be providing a cloak of respectability and lots of passive investors for companies that challenge the canons of corporate governance such as Vedanta…’. Similarly City of London researchers from ‘Trusted Sources’ have noted Vedanta’s reasons for registering in London:

“A London listing allows access to an enormous pool of capital. If you are in the FTSE Index, tracker funds have got to own you and others will follow.” Both Vedanta Resources and Essar Energy are members of the FTSE 100. London’s reputation as a market with high standards of transparency and corporate governance is another draw for Indian companies. Both Vedanta and Essar have faced criticism on corporate governance grounds in India, and a foreign listing is seen as one way to signal to investors that the company does maintain high standards.

We are joining the calls of parliamentarians and financiers in pointing out how the London listing is used for legal immunity and to hide Vedanta’s corporate crimes. We are calling for Vedanta to be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange and taken to court for Human Rights abuses here in London.

Posted: December 14th, 2012 , http://www.foilvedanta.org/

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