Anti-Vedanta activism hits the spotlight in Tamil Nadu
Vedanta's aggressions against Dongaria Kondh, Dalit and other communities in Orissa, aren't the only examples of the UK company's unlawful behaviour, now confirmed by India's Ministry of Environment and Forests (see accompanying story).
Manifold indictments of the company's environmental pollution and illicit expansion at its Tuticorin copper smelter in Tamil Nadu date back further than allegations surrounding Vedanta's operations in Lanjigarh and the Nymagiri hills. See: India's Supreme Court Panel Cracks Down on Hazardous Waste
Nityanand Jayaraman is a Chennai-based activist, working with communities fighting the pollution and human rights abuses of Sterlite Industries.*
He informs us that, just over a week ago,week, members of the "Thoothukudi Anti-Sterlite Struggle Committee" staged a road blockade, demanding the closure of the smelter, in view of various violations that have come light.
The activists were held in the town's Central Police Station and later released without charge. Nontheless, notes Nityanand, "at least three of the 10 detained already have outstanding warrants against them for locking up the Collector's office a few weeks ago voicing the same demand to shut down Sterlite."
For an earlier article on MAC, related to Vedanta's operations in Tamil Nadu and the work of the Corporate Accountability Desk in Chennai, please see: India's High Court halts Vedanta's bauxite mining
*Editorial note: Sterlite is majority-owned and controlled by Vedanta Resources plc.
"A month of exciting developments"
By Nityanand Jayaraman
Corporate Accountability Desk, Chennai
23 August 2010
It has been a month of exciting developments.
Last month, Mr. Varadarajan, VP Finance of Sterlite, was beaten with shoes by advocates in the magistrate's court in Tuticorin. He was subsequently sent to jail. The Madurai High Court last week said he could leave on depositing Rs. 200 crores in the excise duty evasion case that he/Sterlite are being tried for. Mr. Anil Agarwal seems to have decided that Rs. 200 crores is too much of a deposit even for Mr. Varadarajan. So, while Mr. V languishes in Madurai jail, his employer has taken the matter to the Supreme Court seeking reduction in the deposit amount for Mr. V's release.
Also in Tuticorin, Mr. V's arrest has had a very salutary effect on local resistance against Sterlite. Following the direct action against Mr. V by Tuticorin lawyers, a small group of local activists and eminents locked the District Collector in his office after the latter declined to come out to receive a petition seeking Sterlite's closure. An FIR has been registered against five leaders, including Fatima Babu [ a well known activist, resident in Tuticorin]..
These developments have coalesced a significant group of people into forming the Anti Sterlite Struggle Committee, headed by Mr. Nainar Kulasekaran -- an octagenarian organic farmer and leader of the Tamiraparani (River) Farmers Organisation. Other key members include, Mr. Natarajan, district head of the powerful and progressive Tamilnadu Small Merchants Association (Tamilnadu Vanigar Sangam), Mr. James Victor of the Christian Right to Life Organisation, Fatima Babu and Pushparayan .
On 16 August, the Anti-Sterlite Struggle Committee had a planning meeting, and a robust plan to challenge Sterlite, in particular its 400,000 tpa copper smelter expansion has been drawn up, involving mobilisation of farmers and fisherfolk against the project/company.
The case filed by Pushparayan in the Madras High Court challenging the issue of clearance for expansion without conducting a public hearing, is coming up on 31 August.