Annie Zaidi: The artists who took a stand


English: Photograph of Shyam Benegal in his of...

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One of life’s minor joys is finding someone to admire.
Not many heroes are left to us, thanks to the mainstream press ignoring instances of quiet, sustained courage, and our own cynicism. I’m sometimes annoyed at ‘positive’ news that translates into interviews with students who have managed high scores, or interviews with successful businessmen or creative professionals. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but there’s a difference between success and heroism.

We rarely hear about those who take a stand — unless they end up being jailed or tortured or killed for it. And then we begin to wonder if there is anybody at all who takes a stand, and whether it is worth it. And if nobody does, why should we?

So I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Shyam Benegal and Gul Panag had withdrawn from the jury of a filmmaking competition organised by Vedanta. I looked it up online and saw that lucrative prizes were being offered to media students. But the thing is, Vedanta’s money is not made through films. It is made through mining, mostly in rural areas and forests, and a lot of Vedanta’s activities and plans are protested by those who must suffer the consequences.

Vedanta wanted to create happiness, not by tackling pollution but through a film competition. It chose jurors like Shyam Benegal, Gul Panag and Piyush Pandey. Last I checked on their website, only Pandey’s name remained on the list. And I feel relieved, not because I want to see Vedanta criticised, but simply because I get hungry for the lack of an artist whom I can also admire as a person.

Benegal has long been a hero for many of us who like his artistic vision, and respect his engagement with the political, moral and social forces shaping the country. After lawyer-activist Kamayani  Bali Mahabal wrote an open letter on her blog, telling him about Vedanta’s reluctance to take responsibility for pollution and displacement, a friend of Benegal’s left a comment saying that the filmmaker has withdrawn from the jury.

To be honest, I was surprised. I would have understood if he chose to ignore that letter. Every major corporation is devoted to extracting profit from earth, water, air, human labour, and at minimum cost. They all pump money into image management so they come off smelling like roses. Vedanta certainly isn’t the only one. And what would be accomplished if one filmmaker backed out of one tiny contest?…. CONTD…

Read DNA article here

 

Camera Obscura and the manufacture of happiness- Vedanta


English: Photograph of Shyam Benegal in his of...

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Aman Sethi and Priscilla Jebaraj, march 6, The HIndu

Hostile online campaign takes some of the shine off Vedanta‘s promotionals.

An advertisement flooding airwaves across the country would have you believe that a company called Vedanta is a creating a product called happiness. A young child called “Binno” plays, studies, and thinks big dreams in one of India‘s lusher and more idyllic villages. Binno’s joy, the voice-over says, is relatively recent: Binno’s parents probably didn’t have as much fun or as many dreams as Binno does.

Binno’s parents don’t dispute the claims, but it is safe to assume that they certainly didn’t have ad-firm Ogilvy and Mather on hand to film their childhood as part of the first national campaign to signal the entry of controversial mining and metals giant Vedanta into the happiness market.

London-based Vedanta Resources is the holding company for a host of Indian and international companies like BALCO, Vedanta Aluminum, Sterlite, Sesa Goa, and Cairn India Ltd with annual revenues in excess of $11 billion. The company’s rapid expansion has attracted the ire of environmental activists and human rights groups like Amnesty International who have accused the company of exploiting indigenous communities — such as the Dongria Kondhs of Niyamgiri in Odisha — without due process.

The company is also involved in litigation over a proposed university in Odisha, and a separate case in Chhattisgarh in which 45 labourers were killed in a construction accident in their BALCO plant in Korba. Company spokespersons have denied such allegations and say that the company has improved the lives of thousands of individuals through employment and social initiatives implemented by the Vedanta Foundation.
Telling its side of the story

Vedanta’s “Creating Happiness” campaign, according to company spokesperson Senjam Raj Sekhar, is part of an “initiative to tell our side of the story”; yet the hostile reception on blogs and social-media networks like Facebook and Twitter highlights the risks of exposing a tightly controlled corporate message to the anarchy of the internet.

Case in point: The television commercial starring Binno is merely the launch pad of the campaign, which also includes a film competition, in which media and mass communication students from 21 institutions across the country were invited to make three-minute films on the company’s various Corporate Social Responsibilty projects. An online campaign appears to have influenced film director Shyam Benegal and film artiste Gul Panag‘s decision to withdraw from the competition jury.

Activists have even started a viral “Faking Happiness” campaign in an attempt to highlight Vedanta’s alleged malpractices.

Read more here

 

Vedanta’s PR campaign backfires as Bollywood celebs pull out


A bid by British mining giant Vedanta Resources to repair its tarnished international reputation has backfired after two major Bollywood celebrities withdrew from a film competition supposed to show the ‘happiness’ the company creates.

Renowned filmmaker Shyam Benegal and Bollywood actress Gul Panag were both part of a judging panel, which had until the end of this month to pick a winning film out of the 38 submitted.

The films were all shot by ‘budding film-makers’, who were escorted by Vedanta around villages where it has a presence.

The objective of the competition was to show the ‘happiness’ Vedanta brings to local communities where it works.

Vedanta’s reputation was irreversibly damaged when it ignored the rights of the Dongria Kondh tribe, whose sacred mountain it sought to mine for aluminum ore.

Read more here

 

Feminism’s unfinished business


Ritu Menon | March 3, 2012, TOI, Crest Edition

On any given day the Yahoo group Feminists India carries dozens of postings on dozens of issues, from protesting Vedanta‘s “support” of balwadis and anganwadis, to campaigning for tribal activist Soni Sori’s right to a fair trial and demanding accountability from the police for her abuse in custody, to the politics of Slut Walk. The group sends open letters (including to Sri Lankan President Rajapaksha on equal rights for Tamils), invitations to seminars, book and job announcements, information on campaigns, requests for information, statements of solidarity, comments on legal judgments – all in a day’s work. Recently, Shyam Benegal and Gul Panag responded to an Open Letter sent by FeministsIndia by withdrawing from judging a short films competition sponsored by Vedanta.

It’s true that an internet presence may not have the same immediacy or visibility as being out on the streets, but the activism is still around and its reach is considerable. To all those who feel the women’s movement in India is on the wane, perhaps a more accurate assessment is that it is more dispersed, has deeper roots, and has shifted from being urban and middle class to more hinterland and, often, even more rural. In major metropolises, for example, the objective is not simply demanding that “eve-teasing” be treated as a crime;rather it’s working with the police, with college students, with planning and civic bodies to ensure safe cities for all – women, children, the elderly, the disabled, the disadvantaged. If the 1980s-1990 s were a time of consciousnessraising (as much for society as for ourselves) with all the exhilaration and energy that this generated, the 2000s may well be about actively working towards change, not just in laws but on the ground, in society.

Of course, one misses the excitement and togetherness of demonstrating on the streets and the sense of accomplishment at having a law amended or an act passed. But the movement is older now, more mature, and the environment has changed – we’re in a globalised, connected India today, and forms of protest and mobilising, of negotiation and intervention, have had to take this into account.

About seven or eight years ago, Akshara, a women’s resource centre in Mumbai that has been in the forefront of the movement since the 1980s, decided they needed to reach out to young people in the city. Not via your usual fete-and-sports events, but through a sustained and continuing engagement with them on gender issues. Today they work with 18 “low-resource ” colleges in the city, and over the years the students have fanned out to district colleges and reached several thousand others. With Xavier’s College and five other institutions in Mumbai, Akshara carried out a safety audit of the city, monitoring 22 locations with the help of 150 students. Their Blow the Whistle Campaign resulted in setting up a police helpline 103, responding to crimes against women, children and senior citizens. “The response from students has been amazing, ” says Nandita Shah of Akshara, “especially from the boys”.

Resisting and reporting violence against women has, unfortunately, remained a staple of the Indian women’s movement, but its ambit has expanded to address a range of civic issues that encompass unsafe spaces for women in cities, ensuring safe travel in public transport, sexual harassment at the workplace, including the space where women street vendors ply their trade. In 2005, Jagori spearheaded a Safe Cities project in Delhi with (like Akshara) a safety audit, and in 2009, the Delhi government launched the Safe City Campaign in partnership with Jagori and UN Women. Its Awaaz Uthao programme has set up collectives in 15 communities across the city, made up of the police, schools, the municipality, women and other “stakeholders” to identify key concerns regarding safety, and then working to address them.

Meanwhile, Jagori Grameen in Himachal Pradesh works with women farmers in 45 villages, encouraging them to replenish natural resources through organic agriculture. “There is a direct link between the patriarchal exploitation of women and the capitalist exploitation of land”, says Abha Bhaiya of Jagori Grameen, “land and women, both are seen as objects of exploitation. ” SAFAL (Sustainable Agriculture, Forest and Land) recognises women’s work as agriculturists, as well as their role as ecologists.

Read more here

Happiness Quotient Vedanta’s corporate campaign sparks off a controversy


English: Piyush Pandey

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Buisnessworld , 03 Mar 2012, Prasad Sangameshwaran

The hunter becomes the hunted. Adman Piyush Pandey, known for his anti-smoking campaign and a film on the Bhopal gas tragedy, finds himself at the receiving end of a controversy. At the epicentre is a corporate film, ‘Creating Happiness’, that his agency, Ogilvy, made for Vedanta, the natural resources major that stands accused of human rights violations in tribal areas.

The ad, which features a young girl from Rajasthan who has benefited from Vedanta’s community initiatives, is believed to be the brainchild of Vedanta chief Anil Agarwal’s daughter Priya Agarwal, who works at Ogilvy. The ad would have escaped activists’ radar, but for a competition that Vedanta ran alongside the 90-second ad, inviting young film makers to make films on the company’s social initiatives. Two of the three jury members of the competition — actor-activist Gul Panag and veteran film maker Shyam Benegal — have resigned, claiming that they were unaware of Vedanta’s association with the campaign. And Pandey, the third jury member, has become the target of online activists, who posted ‘spoof’ ads on Facebook, showing Pandey with the caption “I’m faking happiness, are you?” Online activists sent appeals to I&B minister Ambika Soni to prevent the ad from being aired. And a counter competition inviting young film makers to create ‘faking happiness’ ads has been launched. “We are mixing issues that neither me nor the activists are qualified to make a judgement on,” is what Pandey, executive chairman, Ogilvy has to say on the debate.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 12-03-2012)

Read original Article here

I was asked to reply Piyush Pandey’s comment  and I did but was not  carried in the story , so here is my reply

Which issues are being mixed and where ? A clear case of playing with peoples emotions by projecting the messages in a stratigized campaign to fool people into believing what it shows,a documentraish  branding, patronising our history and poverty.It is an aggressive attempt at classical conditioning from a company whose brand recognition has been closely connected to its questionable practices in precisely the kind of tribal areas where this ad claims it is ‘creating happiness’ and just look at the selected jury, Gul Panag and Shyam Benegal, the socially conscious celebrities in the world of cinema, who were actually kept in dark, that its a VEDANTA PR EXCERCISE There is something called professional ethics, I hope Mr Pandey knows that very well, so act of keeping jury in dark was totally unethical . The Films in creating happiness are produced by Vedanta , funded by vedanta, and telling people what great work they are doing, Its like judging own production , and using the filmakers to say what vedanta officials wanted to say, but could not as no onE would have then believd them obviously .

Faking Happiness- Spoof Ad Competition


In today’s times when much of media is sold out to corporates, the only voices that show the truth of malpractices of various mining giants are a few activists and documentary filmmakers. Vedanta‘s strategy to organize a film competition on their ‘community initiatives’ is such a fool proof masking of their real face. By organizing such a film competition and sponsoring 114 students from top media and film schools in the country including FTII, Whistling Woods, Symbiosis, School of Convergence, MGR FTI, IIMC, Assam University, Xavier’s, Christ University, AAFT, ZIMA, Tezpur University, IP College and Ravenshaw to produce films on itself…Vedanta knows how to make opinions about itself and how to control the ‘could be’ voices of future.

With jury panel consisting of Shyam Benegal and Gul Panag , who have withdraWn now , the jury only has piyush pandey .Rhanks to kractivism that the ONLY FTII entry in teh comteition ahs withdrawn after the open letter letter to participants was circulated

Objective- This campiagn is to UNMASK the TRUE FACE of corporates, which they tend to hide beautifully through their rCSR AD FILMS fool people, while on one hand they indulge in human rights violations on other hand they glorify their peice meal appraoch of CSR criminal corporations using these feel good advts, need to eb EXPOSED, and that what precisely the ” faking happiness’ campaign intends to do

You see an AD Print, Video which you feel is blatantly lying about their work and using it as an image building method, you make a spoof of that ad and send to us at

fakinghappinessindia@gmail.com

CATEGORIES
1.BILLBORADS
2.PRINT ADS
4 AD FILMS
5.ANY OTHER CATEGORY 🙂

YOUR LAST DATE FOR SUBMISSION IS 4TH MARCH NIGHT — AND THEN VOTING WILL START ON MARCH 8TH GO ON TILL MARCH 20TH AND RESULTS ANNOUNCED ON MARCH 21ST 2012

COME ON FRIENDS LETS KRACK THIS TOGETHER AND COME UP WITH SOME GREAT SPOOF ADS.

pl share widely and get more entries

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Vedanta -Creating Happiness? Certainly Not in Puri


Tehelka, Jay Mazoomdaar is an Independent Journalist.

Its mega university project stuck in the court, Vedanta withdraws free education to 500 children of project-affected families

ON 30 JANUARY, Vedanta released its maiden national corporate publicity campaign — Creating Happiness, a 90-second film created by Ogilvy & Mather — across television channels. Binno, a little girl from rural Rajasthan and the face of the campaign, has already endeared herself to millions. The campaign also features 38 short films made by students of Film and Television Institute of India, Indian Institute of Mass Communication and other institutes, shortlisted by a jury including Shyam Benegal and Gul Panag.(At the time of going to press, Benegal told an activist that he was not on the jury anymore).

Understandably, thousands of victims of Vedanta’s environmental and human rights abuse see little endearing in Binno’s smile. Now among them are 500 children from Odisha’s Puri district who belong to families affected by the Vedanta University Project (VUP). On 10 February, they suddenly became dispensable liabilities in the MNC’s mega scheme of things.

The campaign with a media budget of more than Rs 100 crore, to quote O&M executive chairman Piyush Pandey, is “all about enabling India” and “looks forward to the people of India not just appreciating Vedanta efforts, but getting inspired to do something on their own to make India a happier place.” With that lofty goal, Vedanta’s communications and brand director Senjam Raj Sekhar told the media that the MNC “opened up all its projects and locations to budding independent filmmakers”.

But Vedanta kept at least one location under wraps. Only two of the 38 films in the competition feature Odisha. And neither tells the Vedanta story in Puri where the MNC began sponsoring the education of 500 children in the prestigious DAV Public School four years ago.

GADADHAR TRIPATHI from Chandanpur, Puri district, was among thousands of villagers approached by Vedanta for their land. In June 2006, Vedanta Resources Ltd had sought 15,000 acres from the Odisha government for setting up a university near Puri. A month on, the government signed an MOU with Vedanta Foundation (formerly Sterlite Foundation) for the project.

“The company took 6,000 acres of agricultural land from us. We were told that our children would get good education for free. We were also promised quality healthcare and jobs. It even promised to build good schools in our villages. We were happy,” says Tripathi.

In 2008, VUP signed a 30-year MOU with DAV to provide education for 500 children from the project-affected families up to Class X.

The project website — vedanta.edu.in — reads: In an honest attempt at forging a partnership for providing quality education to the largely deprived children of the rural areas, the VUP of Anil Agarwal Foundation has been supporting the children belonging to the project impacted village for admission into DAV Public School, Puri.

Read more here

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Benegal pulls out of jury on Vedanta-promoted film competition


English: Photograph of Shyam Benegal in his of...

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PTI New Delhi: Renowned filmmaker Shyam Benegal has pulled out of a jury panel that was to judge a creative film competition organised by mining group Vedanta, as part of its media campaign, apparently aimed at improving its image. Benegal confirmed his resignation from the jury of the ‘Creating Happiness Film Competition’ but refused to give reasons. “Yes, I have pulled out (of the jury),” he told PTI. “I rather will not comment on this (reasons for the pullout).”

The Dadasaheb Phalke awardee’s association with a group with alleged poor trackrecord had been criticised on social networking sites. Vedanta Group spokesperson did not reply to requests made for comments on the development. Billionaire Anil Agarwal-led Vendanta Resources had invited students from across the country to make shortfilms showcasing its initiatives to sustainable development towards the society through a platform, ‘Creating Happiness Film Competition’. The films were to be judged in two categories – popular choice and jury award. Advertising Personality Piyush Pandey and actress Gul Panang were the other members of the jury.

Pandey, too, has been criticised for his involvement but he continues to be on the jury. Unconfirmed reports said Panang, too, may have pulled out of the jury. No independent confirmation of her move could, however, be ascertained. Panang could not be reached for comments

. However, sources close to the development said Vedanta’s alleged tarnished image, particularly after the Niyamgiri Hills issue in Orissa, may have prompted Benegal to pull out of the panel. The metal and mining major has also in the past received severe criticism from social activists for damaging the tribal habitats and environment at Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa. A land grabbing charge was also labelled against it. Vedanta Resources, having interests in non-ferrous metals and iron ore, had earlier invited film students across the country to find their own ‘Binno’ from 550 villages where the company has presence and make films that will tell ‘real stories’.

As many as 38 films have been made by 114 students from 21 colleges. Vedanta had uploaded all films on its official YouTube channel. The three-month voting period for judging the best under the popular choice category will end on March 20.

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