#Pune – MNS workers thrash north Indian parent #WTFnews

PUNE, March 5, 2013, tHE hINDU
A group of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) party workers thrashed the father of a north Indian student in Satara on Monday afternoon, alleging that he had forged the age certificate which would get his son admission into the 5th standard of the Sainik School in Satara.

“The outsiders (north Indians) come here with 15-year-old boys and take admission into this prestigious school in 5th standard which is meant for 10-11 year olds. Can we not make out the difference between a 10-year-old and a 15-year-old boy? Some parents complained to us and decided to take appropriate action against them,” Satara MNS chief Ranjit Bhosale told The Hindu.

According to eye witnesses, the victim Mukesh Kumar who hailed from Uttar Pradesh, was accompanying his son for the mandatory medical check up before the admission at the government hospital in Satara, when MNS workers came and conducted an identification parade.

“He (Mr. Kumar) spoke rudely with us, hence we had to tackle him physically,” Mr. Bhosale said.

“Those people pay doctors to give them fake certificates, and then top in sports, academics and our boys are left behind. We do not oppose the 30 per cent reservation for students from other States, but cheating the school has to stop,” he stated.

Asked whether he had complained against the hospital and the school for issuing and accepting fake age certificates, Mr. Bhosale said, “The ones who issue the certificates accept bribe, and some of the school authorities, too, are outsiders.”

However, no police complaint was registered against the MNS workers. There was a police bandobast at the school after the incident.

MNS chief Raj Thackeray said in Mumbai that he was not aware of the incident, adding, “wherever outsiders get opportunities meant for Maharashtrians, we will oppose.”


Alarm bells ring for Vedanta #goodnews for Tribals

MONDAY, 07 JANUARY 2013 00:13

The Vedanta Aluminium, which has invested a whopping Rs50,000 crore in its aluminium and power projects in the State, is now on the verge of total closure.

The future of around 7,000 families, who are directly and indirectly earning their livelihoods from the 1-million-tonne-per-annum capacity refinery at Lanjigarh, set up with an initial investment of $ 1 billion, is now uncertain. All assurances by the Government to provide bauxite for the refinery have come a cropper.

Plant’s COO Dr Mukesh Kumar confirms, “The cumulative losses from the unit have crossed Rs2,500 crore and the company has hardly any other viable option left.” The crisis has all the potential to scare off other investors in the State.

President of Lanjigarh Anchalik Vikas Parishad Shridhar Pesnia, who is in the forefront of the movement to save the refinery, says, “The closure of the unit will be a setback for the company, but for the people of Kalahandi it will spell total disaster. The area will slide back to the days of starvation, disease and abject poverty. Never will any other company dare to invest in this backward area. The fate of Kalahandi will be sealed forever.”

While the closure of the refinery, which represents the single largest investment in Kalahandi district, will roll back the long-term development efforts, it will also bring in a lot of hardship to the people who are employed there as well as those who earn a living because of its economic ripples.

Sujata Mohanty, employed with the plant’s HR department, pointed out, “The human cost of misery involved in the closure of the unit will be impossible even to calculate. As it is, people are facing difficulties in getting a job, and now the locals will have to migrate away from the State in search of livelihoods.”

Triggered by a landmark judgement of the Supreme Court in 2008 which had directed the company to pay 5 per cent of its profits or Rs 10 crore annually, whichever is higher, for tribals’ development, a lot of visible changes had taken place at the ground level. Shrikant Bohidar, who works in the CSR department says, “The company till date has invested more than Rs 170 crore on community development projects. Never before had this amount of money spent on developing infrastructure and livelihoods in Kalahandi. Schools, hospitals, scientific farming methods, shifting to cash crops, midday meal schemes, etc., will now be affected.”

Hari Majhi, a project displaced person currently employed with the company, is now deeply anguished. “My daughter is right now studying in the DAV school run by the company. What will happen to her future? We gave our land for the company, and now the company itself is closing down.” There are hundreds of people like Majhi whose children were enjoying the benefits of modern education in such a remote area.

What makes the situation extremely grim is the fact that in the last three decades not a single bauxite mine has become operational in Odisha. It, therefore, is an irony that while Vedanta’s refinery is virtually surrounded by about two billion tonnes of bauxite reserve, the company has to source its raw material from a cocktail of sources ranging from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. Besides the exorbitant cost of hauling the bauxite from the far-flung States, even these sources have now dried up.

And there is another disturbing development that speaks volumes about the callous attitude of the Government. While on the one hand the Vedanta refinery has already shut, there is also a danger of its aluminium smelter located at Jharsuguda facing a similar situation. Right now, the smelter is resorting to imports of alumina which is not only costly but also involves an outflow of foreign exchange.

Yet on the other hand, the Nalco, which is virtually Vedanta’s next door neighbour, is busy exporting its surplus alumina and not releasing it in the local market. To make matters worse, the Nalco would, in fact, have realised more money had it sold its alumina in the local market. According to sources, the Nalco can easily make another Rs 250 crore annually simply by selling the alumina to domestic consumers like Balco and Vedanta.

Alarm bells are ringing not only for Vedanta but also for Odisha as this is bound to send out adverse signals to other corporates which are planning to invest in the State. The State Government seems to have woken up of late and is initiating steps to ensure that the Karlapat mine is allotted to the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC). Sources, however, feel that Karlapat’s proximity to the wildlife sanctuary and elephant corridor is likely to make the task of getting the necessary clearances very difficult and time-consuming. Even if all goes as per schedule, it may not be possible to start mining from Karlapat within the next four to five years. By then, it might just become too late!

Related articles

#Vedanta vs the government: Just a lovers’ tiff? #tribalrights

by  Dec 19, 2012


Earlier this month Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) announced it was closing its Lanjigarh refinery in Odisha.

VAL’s chief executive officer told the Hindustan Times, “Despite out concerted efforts over the past three months to ensure sustainable supplies of bauxite for our refinery in Lanjigarh, we have not been able to find any solution.”

The company said in a press release that the closure would affect 7,000 people directly or indirectly. Vedanta says the state government is not keeping its promise to provide bauxite linkage to the refinery.

“The bogey of job losses is meant to blackmail the central and state government and influence the court,” social activist Prafulla Samantara told HT. According to Business Standard,  the state government has started the process of identifying prospective alternative bauxite deposits for Vedanta now that  Niyamgiri is out of bounds.

Does that mean Vedanta, whose mining practices have long been the target of activists, is in big trouble? Or that the activists have won?

Not so fast. An Open Magazine article (worth reading in its entirety here) says the government versus Vedanta case is a lot murkier than it would seem from the tit-for-tat press releases and official statements.

In nine cases out of 10, Big Business gets its way. And the perception is that when it does not, it’s not because the government was on its toes, but because it was embarrassed into doing its job.

The Ministry of Environment and Forest did withdraw its clearance for bauxite mining in Niyamgiri after an international campaign against it. The ministry also came down on Vedanta for violating ecological norms and expanding the refinery without an environmental clearance.

But, says Open, “no explanation was offered for the ease with which the MoEF let the project go ahead in the first place.”

That story is the real story that gets people up in arms about how much a Walmart spends lobbying India to get into the market. It’s not that the lobbying is illegal but the sense is that the company-politician nexus is a juggernaut that will ride roughshod over everything else. A Vedanta setback is just a temporary blip. In nine cases out of 10, Big Business gets its way. And the perception is that when it does not, it’s not because the government was on its toes, but because it was embarrassed into doing its job.

So it’s a little hard to take at face value the current scuffle between Vedanta and the Odisha state government as anything but a lovers’ tiff. Odisha is demanding that Sterlite Energy Ltd (SEL), a Vedanta company, deposit its contribution to the Odisha Environment Management Fund immediately, writes Business Standard. Meanwhile Vedanta is applying the screws on the Odisha government for not paying Rs 744 crore dues for power supply from SEL.

Despite all the bad press, Vedanta is happy to play the good Samaritan. On World AIDS day on 1 December, it kicked off an AIDS awareness campaign at Jharsuguda. At Lanjigarh itself it held a free camp for cleft lip and palate surgery. “This is a noble initiative,” Dr Mukesh Kumar, the president and COO of VAL, said. “Vedanta hospital will continue to serve the people of the region.” The Vedanta Foundation and the Odisha state government just signed an MoU for an e-Shiksha project that will help students in tribal areas get LED Pico projectors with memory and backup.

But Open Magazine says that’s not enough. Its reporter found  that the company has tried to build consensus through blank pieces of paper. It claims 3,000 villagers have supported their project. Open found a video that showed residents of the village being asked to put their thumb impressions on blank sheets of paper at a meeting organised by the local Block Development Officer, the village Sarpanch, Tehsildar and Vedanta’s law officer.

In a situation where the state politicians and police are in bed with the company (and the centre is acting partly because an opposition party is in power in Odisha) anyone who speaks out does so very much at his own peril. The local journalist who took that video says he fears every day he will be branded a Maoist and thrown into jail. People fighting for compensation or refusing to give up their land have had dacoity charges slapped on them already.

That’s easy to imagine happening because as Arundhati Roy explained in Outlook, the collusion between a company like Vedanta and powers that be is deep and entrenched.  P Chidambaram was a non-executive director of Vedanta till he became the finance minister in 2004.

What are we to make of the fact that, when activists from Orissa filed a case against Vedanta in the Supreme Court, citing its violations of government guidelines and pointing out that the Norwegian Pension Fund had withdrawn its investment from the company alleging gross environmental damage and human rights violations committed by the company, Justice Kapadia suggested that Vedanta be substituted with Sterlite, a sister company of the same group? He then blithely announced in an open court that he too had shares in Sterlite.

This is not just a jholawallah critique from the Arundhati Roys of the world. Even Ratan Tatais speaking out about crony capitalism. As Gurcharan Das points out in his new book India Grows At Night:

Indubitably the 1991 reforms have unleased business enterprise and this has done a lot of good in lifting the millions out of poverty and into the middle class. But it has also given greater freedom to ‘robber barons’, as it did in the United States at the turn of the nineteenth century… Because many sectors of the economy have not yet been reformed India has increasingly moved to a disturbing situation where large business groups enjoy excessive power.”

Vedanta complains the media is biased against it and never presents its side of the story.  The story of Vedanta deserves attention not because it’s about tribal lands or that the Dongria Kondh people regard the hills as their living gods.  It’s because when the state is weak and corruptible, every company just assumes that it pays to be a robber baron.

In a video obtained by Open when asked by an engineer if they had taken permission to raise the heights of certain embankments, a company rep airily says the company rarely does that. Work is done first and permission taken later.

That about sums it all up.


Tribals protest against #Vedanta refinery, demand complete eviction of plant

By Tariq Abdul Muhaimin 12/6/12, Newzfirst

Bhubaneswar – Hundreds of tribals and farmers belonging to several villages and a spectrum of grassroots movements across Odisha on Thursday demonstrated at Lanjigarh, demanding the expulsion of an aluminium refinery owned by British mining giant Vedanta, located at the foot of Niyamgiri Mountain.

Vedanta, a company which by its name symbolizes the sacred texts of Hindu mythology, has been accused of showing complete disregard and disrespect to the sentiments of Dongria Kondh tribesmen who dwell below the Niyamgiri Mountain and consider it as sacrosanct by associating their livelihood to the blessings received from the sacred forest housed by this mountain.

Located at a distance of 600 kms from the state capital Bhubaneswar, Niyamgiri is a place of quiet beauty as the lush green forest which grows on its bed only echoes the sound of chirping birds, winds that blow across the hills and the sound that originates from the Aluminium factory at Lanjigarh.

However, the sound from the Vedanta Alumina refinery (VAL) at Lanjigarh completely subsided on Wednesday as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) announced its closure citing lack of raw material availability.

Lanjigarh refinery shut-down on Wednesday, but tribals demand complete eviction

“We have already started the process of shutting down the alumina plant from the morning. By evening, the one million tonne per annum alumina refinery would completely come to standstill,” Mukesh Kumar, COO of VAL, told reporters on Wednesday.

The plant’s shutdown comes following a three-month closure notice which it had given to the Labour Department of Odisha government on September 5. The notice was served on the grounds of non-availability of raw materials. The refinery needs at least 10,000 tonnes of bauxite everyday to keep the plant operational.

The plant had already witnessed a temporary shutdown in the last three months but was reopened again after a few days, following the availability of bauxite from states like Jharkhand and Gujarat.

Nonetheless, hundreds of villagers from 17 hamlets around the Niyamgiri who marched from their homes towards Lanjigarh on Wednesday to join the demonstration against VAL, demanded the complete eviction of the refinery.

“We are demanding that the refinery must be dismantled completely. It should be locked up and shifted to any other place. Even if the Apex Court delivers a judgment against the mining of Bauxite at Niyamgiri, we doubt that the plant will be shifted” activist Prafulla Samantara from National Alliance of People’s Movements told Newzfirst.

“They will continue their operations by getting raw materials from other states. We cannot allow this. The waters, the forest which is considered sacred by the Dongria and the biodiversity of Niyamgiri are all being affected. They will soon be finished if the plant stays here,” he added.

Tribals and farmers of grassroots organizations such as Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti, Loka Sangram Mancha, Samajwadi Jan Parishad, and Sachetana Nagarika Mancha were part of this demonstration.

We are hopeful that SC will not allow mining here

In anticipation of the final Supreme Court decision which will decide the fate of the contest between the Aluminium refinery and the locals over the authorization to mine for bauxite in the hills, the ten thousand people who gathered at Lanjigarh to demand the lock-up of VAL, said “We are hopeful”.

The Apex Court’s decision on this ruling was repeatedly postponed and the final hearing took place on 3 December. The protestors were awaiting the decision, which they said would come out any time soon.

“We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will give a judgment in people’s favor. The plan to mine bauxite on the Niyamgiri Mountain will not succeed. At least we won’t let it succeed” Prafulla said.

The tale of Lanjigarh refinery

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 required to run the plant.

The mineral wealth lying beneath the slopes of the mountain had drawn Vedanta to Niyamgiri. Now, it wants to turn the hillside into a giant bauxite mine to feed its refinery.

However, obtaining permission to mine the mountain has been very difficult for the British giant Vedanta.

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 was mounted by the Orissa Mining Corporation, a state owned company with 24% shares in the joint venture to mine Niyamgiri with Vedanta.

Now, the Supreme Court decision which will decide if mining can be done on the Niyamgiri, is awaited.

Vedanta shuts down Odisha refinery ahead of schedule #goodnews



13th October 2012 08:43 PM

Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) Saturday temporarily shut down its refinery in Odisha, ahead of its Dec 5 scheduled closure, as it could not arrange for the minimum quantity of bauxite required to continue operations, a senior company official said.

“There was no other choice but to shutdown the plant because we could not arrange the required bauxite,” VAL president Mukesh Kumar told IANS. The plant will resume operations only when we arrange bauxite stocks for 10-15 days of operations, he said.

Last month, the company had informed the state government about shutting operations by Dec 5 but due to non-availability of bauxite it was forced to do so ahead of the schedule.

The one-million-tonne per annum alumina capacity refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district, about 500 km from here, had been operating at reduced capacity since its commissioning in Aug 2007.

In recent weeks the operation at the plant had reached to a critical level and in the past three days it was operating at about 25-30 percent capacity, Kumar said.

Kumar said although the company had been running the plant despite incurring heavy losses by sourcing bauxite from different states, the bauxite availability for the plant was nil since past few days.

Set up with an investment of $800 million, VAL requires three lakh tonnes of bauxite per month to run the refinery at full capacity.

Vedanta wants to mine bauxite from Niyamgiri Hills located near its refinery but its clearances are mired in litigations and protests by residents.

It has also applied for several other bauxite reserves in the state, but none of them have been materialised so far. VAL is an associate company of the London listed Vedanta Resources.

#Vedanta to close Lanjigarh refinery on Dec 5 #goodnews


Times of India, Sept 7, 2012
Rajaram Satapathy
BHUBANESWAR: With no bauxite in hand and mines stuck under regulatory issues, the Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) has decided to shut down its refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district. VAL president and Lanjigarh plant’s chief operating officer (COO) Dr Mukesh Kumar on Thursday intimated the state government that the factory was no more in a position to run and would be closed from December 5.
VAL’s decision is bound to send a wrong signal amongst the prospective investors that mineral-rich Odisha, contrary to the claims of the state government, is far from welcoming industries. The VAL staff carried Kumar’s letter addressed to the labour and employment secretary and handed over in the respective department. Copies of the letter were also given to the chief secretary, industry secretary and director of factories and boilers. “Such a big investment in the state is in jeopardy. No one in the government seems bothered. Our people wanted to meet the secretaries, but were told that they had no time,” said a senior VAL official.
Anil Agarwal‘s VAL is the only private industrial house to have invested more than Rs 50,000 crore in Odisha for setting up the integrated alumina, aluminium complex. This included 1mtpa refinery at Lanjigarh due for expansion to 6 mtpa capacity 70 per cent work on which has already been completed, 1.75 mtpa capacity aluminium smelter, 1215 mw captive power plant and 2400 mw independent power plant, all at Jharsuguda. “In retrospect we feel it was a bad decision to go for such huge investments here,” remarked a senior VAL official. Kumar’s letter blamed the state government for not doing enough to provide raw material, bauxite, for the refinery leading to its closure.
“VAL had set up the refinery entailing huge investment in a specific background wherein the government of Odisha had agreed to supply bauxite,” the letter said, adding detail studies were undertaken on various aspects before signing the final MoU on 7th April 2003 for setting up the refinery. “It is only on the basis of the MoUs and agreements with the government of Odisha for supply of bauxite that VAL agreed to set up an alumina refinery at Lanjigarh,” the letter said. Elaborating, the VAL said it had in the past several years has submitted 26 applications to the state government for prospective license/mining lease of bauxite. “Unfortunately none of the applications could be processed and forwarded for allotment of bauxite mines,” the company’s letter stated.
Kumar’s letter highlighted how VAL finding the government not keeping its promise for supply of bauxite had desperately tried to source raw materials from different other places including going for imports at high costs. But nothing seemed helping the plant providing livelihood to hundreds of families run smoothly. “As such, it has become difficult to sustain operations without causing damage to the plant, equipment and machinery. The unit has already incurred financial losses to the tune of more than Rs 2500 crores,” the letter said adding that Lanjigarh factory was built exclusively with ‘low pressure and low temperature technology to treat bauxite available only in the Eastern Ghats and mostly in Odisha.’ The VAL said the prevailing situation has left it with no choice but to take such a ‘painful’ decision to close down the factory as ‘further operation is not feasible’.


Vedanta loses British safety awards after Indian fatality #Vownews #Faking Happiness

The suspension of the awards was sparked by a letter from campaigners linked to the London Mining Network

A worker leaves the Vedanta company's Lanjigarh alumina refinery

A worker leaving Vedanta’s Lanjigarh alumina refinery in Orissa state, India. Photograph Gethin Chamberlain


Multinational mining group Vedanta Resources has had two British safety awards – including one endorsed by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive – suspended after campaigners drew attention to controversies including a fatality at the group’s operations in Orissa, India.

The British Safety Council had been due to present representatives from a subsidiary, Vedanta Aluminium, with a “distinction” award for its Lanjigarh refinery at a black-tie gala dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Mayfair on Friday night. An invitation to the event, described by organisers as “the Oscars of health and safety”, has now been withdrawn.

In a statement, BSC said: “Information has been brought to [our] attention concerning a fatality at the site in April and in connection with earlier occurrences … The BSC has today notified the company of its decision and sought full particulars of the circumstances surrounding the fatal accident and dangerous occurrences.”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has also suspended a “silver award” that was due to be presented to Mukesh Kumar, president of Vedanta Aluminium, at a ceremony in Birmingham.

The suspension of the awards was sparked by a letter from campaigners linked to the London Mining Network. It comes two years after the BSCstripped another Vedanta subsidiary of a safety award after the Observer drew its attention to the firm’s involvement in one of the worst industrial tragedies in India’s recent history. At least 40 workers were said to have been killed by the collapse of a 240-metre, part-built chimney in Korba, in the state of Chhattisgarh.

On both occasions, information passed to the BSC was widely available on the internet.

Last month, a project manager at a Vedanta contractor firm reportedly burned to death and four others received minor injuriesin a fire while staying on a Vedanta campus site in Lanjigarh. Kumar told local media: “The project manager of our red mud refining agency died during the fire accident. I cannot call it lapse in the security measures as I believe the rains and possibly a loose electric wire caused the accident.”

Vedanta reported two fatalities among its employees and 24 contractor deaths across its businesses and projects for the year to 31 March. “Learnings have now been shared across the group and preventative action taken,” it said in its annual report.

The BSC allows firms applying for its international safety awards to assess themselves. They are barred from receiving an award if there is a fatality at the site in question. In the case of Vedanta’s Lanjigarh aluminium refinery, the fatality occurred after the application had been processed, but the BSC had not been informed. Critics of Vedanta’s practices at Lanjigarh also point to allegations of two caustic residue spills – accusations the BSC is taking seriously.

A spokesman for Vedanta said officials in India could not be reached for comment.

Roger Moody, of the London Mining Network, said: “The process of self-assessment should not be allowed for these awards. Gong-giving is quite an art in India and Vedanta are past masters at trading off these kinds of awards. The fact that they are endorsed by the official British regulator is seen as very, very significant.”

A spokesman for the HSE confirmed that the BSC awards did carry a general endorsement, but added: “We are not involved in the detail of the selection process, or judging the winners.”

Centre asks Odisha to furnish report on Vedanta project


Bibhuti Pati
Bhubaneswar, MAY 9, 2012

THE CENTRE has asked the Odisha government to furnish the physical verification report on diversion of forestland for the expansion of the Vedanta alumina project and its captive power plant at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district. It was on this ground that the Centre had earlier stopped Vedanta’s 2 May public hearing in Lanjigarh.

On 17 April, the Centre had sent a letter to the Odisha government to ask for documents on diversion of forestland for the expansion of the alumina refinery from 1 mt per annum (mtpa) to six mtpa plant as it involved forestland. However, the state government is yet to submit all the documents.

On 26 April, the Centre sent a reminder to the Odisha government. In this, director, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), PL Ahujarai wrote, the plant area in Lanjigarh involves 28.943 hectare (ha) of village forest land. He adds, “The requirement of diversion of forest land under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, is yet to be resolved. The matter regarding access to the villagers has not been satisfactorily addressed.” The Centre has also made it clear that environmental clearance to the project, expansion of the alumina refinery plant and captive power plant from 75 mw to 285 mw would be accorded only after the issue on public hearing was resolved. A detailed report to this effect based on a joint field verification report by the revenue department and forest department was also sent to the chief conservator of forest on 25 October 2011, and it was also forwarded to the ministry of environment and forests. “Hence, there is no pending issue of gramya jungle jogya land,” the Vedanta official said. And for once, Vedanta voiced an opinion about the Odisha government’s role in all this. “Despite investment of nearly Rs 50,000 crore in Odisha, the company has not received any sort of help from the Odisha government,” Vedanta head Mukesh Kumar. “We have to procure raw materials (bauxite) from other states, which will not be viable in the long run,” he said.

Meanwhile, veteran social activists and environmentalist Prafulla Samantara said, “The letter of MOEF to keep abeyance of public hearing on Vedanta’s expansion contains only one objection ie, appropriation of 28 hectare of village forest. But it has ignored other objections with a motive to hide Vedanta’s gross violations of laws.”

The Centre had on 17 April asked for documents on diversion of forestland for the expansion of the alumina refinery

Further, Samantara added, “First, the existing 1 mt capacity for the alumina plant at Lanjigarh is illegal because it has been constructed without forest and mining clearance. Second, construction work for expansion to 6 mt is more than 50 percent complete without any environment and forest clearance. So criminal proceedings should have been taken against the company. The MOEF has directed the state government to take action on violation of forest protection law. But it has not been done.”

Samantara also points out, “In its EIA report, Vedanta has indicated that the nearest source of mining is the Niyamgiri hills. It is a fact that the MOEF had denied mining in Niyamgiri but now the same MOEF accepted mining in Niyamgiri for its expansion when it allowed a public hearing.”

This is why, he says, there should be a firm ban on expansion. As the Odisha government has gone to the Supreme Court against central government’s decision of stopping mining in Niyamgiri, now the same government of India can allow public hearing for expansion on the basis of mining in Niyamgiri. Vedanta got another jolt when its 6 mt capacity production plant expansion proposal congested and the proposed public hearing dated 2 May rejected by MOEF on 17 April. As per the comments of MOEF officials, “There are lots of legal problem and MOEF officials reviewed the whole matter. So it was not possible to give permission for the Vedanta’s 2 May proposed public hearing.”

Former minister, senior Congress leader and Kalahandi Lok Sabha, MP, said “I welcome the MOEF’s timely decision. Vedanta has violated all the forest and environment rules and there us huge violation of human rights. Vedanta almost asked for tough action. How can Vedanta apply in MOEF for expansion when there are so many irregularities?” That the controversies over Niyamgiri mines are still alive was highlighted by the tribal agitation against Vedanta. Recently, hundreds of Dongoria, Jharania and Kutia tribes gheraoed the local police station and went on dharna against Vedanta in Rengopali village.

The tribals alleged police atrocities in connivance with Vedanta officials. This was highlighted by the entire local media. After the massive tribal agitation, Vedanta’s red pond issue, this became a major impediment. The tribals suspect that Vedanta might find a back door as experts are speculating that Vedanta might come up with a joint venture project with L&T to mine Kutru Mali and Silji Mali near Kashipur to feed its Lanjigarh plant, apart from waiting for an opportune time to grab Niyamgiri with the help of both the Odisha government and the MOEF.

That is why the Dongarias and other people will continue fighting for their rights — any kind of complacency will bring doomsday not only for them and their democracy but also for the whole Earth, which holds life in all forms.

fwletters@gmail.com ,  Tehelka


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