MAC: Mines and Communities

India: Yet more shenanigans linked to UK mining company

Published by MAC on 2010-11-22
Source: Orissa Business News, The Hindu, Statement (2010-11-12)

Vedanta "groupies" get lambasted in Orissa

On November 12 2010, the Indian newspaper Orissa Diary published a report claiming that eight tribal and other NGOs had submitted a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition to the state's High Court on behalf of Vedanta Resources plc.

According to the report, the groups were seeking to overturn the central environment ministry (MoEF)'s recent decision to block the company's expansion of  its Lanjigarh alumina refinery.

Certainly thousands of people in the region - not least many workers at the refinery - are angered at the MoEF's decision - no doubt believing their livelihoods to have been jeopardised by political "agitators", many of whom don't even live in the state.

However,  the objectivity of those purporting to have signed the petition has been strongly denied by a local organisation whose authenticity is undeniable.

Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, which represents thousands of Kondh tribespeople in the area,  claims that: "All the NGOs who have petitioned to the High Court are Vedanta's creations facilitated by well known Vedanta agents..."

And already one of those organisations, cited as backing the PIL, denies any knowledge of the petition, and certainly didn't sign onto it.

In a statement issued on 13 November 2010, Akhil Panda of SHAKTI said:

"I ...want to clarify that, the name of Shakti is mentioned in the PIL joint petition without our knowledge. We are surprised to know about this matter. We don't have any knowledge of such move by Vedant[a]. This matter defamed us without any of our fault. Perhaps they mentioned our name in the joint petition, by making some fraud.

"We will counter the issue at appropriate level. Shakti was one of the implementer of VAL's Livelihood project for a sho[r]t duration under CSR, but now, Shakti is no more the partner of Vedanta. We closed our intervention long back. Some of our ex-staffs are working there in a CBO banner in Lanjigarh.

"We follow our ethics, by principle, we are not working with Vedanta. During our short intervention period, we were neutral to all issue....We will fight to delete our name from the PIL."

Last month, some 5,000 people protested against the expansion of the Lanjgarh refinery at a point close to the plant.

Shortly afterwards, according to Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, a contingent of reserve police harassed local activists and arrested two villagers after severely beating them.

Odisha: Tribal leaders appeal in High court against MoEF's decision over Vedanta Aluminium

Orissa Business News

Orissa Diary

12 November 2010

Report by Orissa Diary correspondent; Cuttack: Today, several leading tribal organisations from Kalahandi and Raygada districts have proactively submitted writ petitions to the Hon`ble High court against the recent verdict of Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) for stalling the expansion of refinery project of Vedanta Aluminium limited (VAL) at Lanjigarh.

In an unprecedented move, perhaps for the first time in the country, hundreds of local tribals and inhabitants of the nearby villages of Lajigarh have come all the way from their native village to appeal to the state High Court at Cuttak against the move of MOEF, Government of India.

In a writ petition to the High Court the organisations have mentioned that because of refinery initiative of Vedanta Aluminium at Lanjigarh , hundreds of locals are being engaged directly and indirectly for the livelihood. In fact the company has taken steps to ensure that the residents of Lanjigarh have some form of a dignified lifestyle; have been able to integrate themselves into the mainstream and have succeeded in providing for the needs of their family members.

They have further submitted that all-round development has been initiated in the villages, resulting in raising the standard of education, medical facilities, infrastructure facilities, thereby giving confidence and assurance to the locals of Lanjigarh. A large number of locals, who are also members of the Petitioner association, have purchased vehicles, which are being used at the construction site.

It is further submitted that owing to the stoppage of construction activities at the said site, these Petitioners will be faced with the prospect of dishonouring of the loans taken to purchase the said vehicles.

Eight such organisations have jointly submitted the petition to the Chief justice of Orissa.

These organisations are:-
1. Niyamgiri Vedanta Nagar, ( Rehabilitation Colony), Lanjigarh, Kalahandi, Orissa.
2. Lanjigarh Anchalika Bikash Parishad, Lanjigarh, Kalahandi, Orissa.
3. Nabin Vikash Trush, Bisamcuttack, Rayagada, Orissa.
4. Unnayan Anchalika Samiti, Lanjigarh, Kalahandi, Orissa.
5. Alumina Refinery Labour Union, Lanjigarh, Kalahandi, Orissa.
6. Niyamgiri Adivasi VIkash Parishad,
7. Shakti Organisation, Rayagda, Orissa
8. Kuii Bikash Parishad, Kurli, Rayagada, Orissa.

After submitting the PIL, their official spokesperson Mr Sridhar Pesina said to the media "In the last three months, most of the shops & markets have been closed. Our people have again started migrating to other states and some people who had started private entrepreneurship are avoiding coming home in fear of action on account of default of loan repayment. Conditions are becoming worse day by day. Although Vedanta Management has assured us of restarting the project, but the current situation has created uncertainties and fear among the people". He criticised the MOEF for not realising the ground reality and consequences of such decision which has forced them to approach the Hon'ble High Court for the justice.

"There is a quantum shift in the region through the community development initiatives undertaken by the company in health, education and livelihood. The people of this area are waiting to reap the benefits of implementation of the order of Hon'ble Supreme Court by which 5% of the profit (before tax) from the project would have been shared with the community for developmental works. The process has started and we understand that after expansion the contribution for the developmental work would be in the order of Rs 80-100 Cr annually which can provide livelihood opportunities for everyone in the area and changing today's perception of Kalahandi as a "Black Pot"".


Stop Vedanta sponsored State Repression & Deception in Niyamgiri

By Lingaraj Azad

Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti Press Release

13 November 2010

Kalahandi - While a large section of the media was glossing over a PIL filed by some vested interests in the Orissa High Court yesterday a contingent of more than 40 CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force] personnel were carrying out combing operations in the Niyamgiri hills at exactly the same time.

Not only villagers were harassed and intimidated by the security force but two innocent villagers Bamuna Sikaka from Lamba village and Ranga Sikaka from Guma village were tied up and severely beaten by the security forces. Bamuna Sikaka and Paiku Sikaka were then taken away by the security forces for supposedly being involved in Maoist activities and it is yet to be known where they have been detained.

The combing operation was carried out in the Parsali Gram Panchayat area where Vedanta's agents failed to convince the villagers to be party to the PIL in the High Court. Our fears are that like in the case of Dongria Kondh leader Lado Sikaka, the villagers abducted by the security forces will be tortured and pressurised to not oppose Vedanta. While innocent tribals suffer at the hands of a brutal security force Vedanta is stage managing a big media circus in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar for the PIL in the High Court.

The PIL filed in the High Court yesterday against the MoEF's decision to ban Vedanta from expanding its refinery in Lanjigarh by the so called tribal leaders and NGOs from Kalahandi and Rayagada has been totally engineered by Vedanta.

One NGO, Kui Bikash Parishad that is involved in Vedanta's CSR programmes has duped members of the Dongria Kondh tribe from Parsali area into travelling with them for a workshop in Berhampur on using solar energy but instead wanted to take them to Cuttack in order to make it seem that the PIL has popular support from the tribe.

This was done with active support from the Dongria Kondh Development Agency whose Multi Purpose Workers helped the NGO in reaching the Dongria villages and convincing the people that indeed they would be taken to the workshop on solar energy.

These MPWs have gained the trust of the Dongrias over several years and with this one act they have proved that their loyalty lies not in the interest of the tribe but with Vedanta. Most of the villagers refrained from going along with the the NGO and the MPWs and as a result they had to face the wrath of the CRPF last evening.

In fact all the NGOs who have petitioned to the High Court are Vedanta's creations facilitated by well known Vedanta agents like the Pesnia brothers of Lanjigarh, Srimati Majhi (wife of BJD member Balabhadra Majhi) and Jitu Jakesika.

Earlier on 30th October they had tried to counter the massive demonstration held by the people against the refinery by getting Jitu Jakesika and a handful of misguided tribals into submitting a petition to the District Collector. A section of the media is reporting that hundreds of tribal people are involved in this petition which is absolutely untrue.

This section of the media has not reported about the thousands of protestors demanding the closure of the refinery on 30 October '10. The eight organisations that have appealed to the High Court have been created by Vedanta and did not exist earlier and have never been known to raise issues other than advocating for Vedanta.

With such acts Vedanta is trying to divert the attention from the several violations it has committed and create artificial pressure on the MoEF to revoke its decision on the expansion of the refinery. We have already seen how Vedanta can influence the Supreme Court to make favorable judgements and in this case it can be expected that the company will try its best in swinging the court's verdict on the PIL in its favour.

At a time when the local people are demanding the closure of Vedanta's refinery such a PIL is clearly a desperate attempt by Vedanta to create an illusion of local support.

The so called leaders and NGOs, the media, and the DKDA are all partners of Vedanta in this condemnable act of tricking locals into going to Cuttack and making it seem that there is some support for Vedanta from the Dongria Kondh and other tribes. The DKDA is a Govt. agency created for tribal development but it has been reduced to misleading tribals for Vedanta. But the DKDA is not the only tribal welfare organisation working as an agency of Vedanta.

The Scheduled Caste & Scheduled Tribe Research Institute of the state government led by Mr. A. B. Ota has been working as a full time research and publication wing for Vedanta.

Mr. Ota is also the man behind promoting Jitu Jakesika as an ambassador of the Dongria Kondh. In fact Mr. Ota's son Mr. Anil Ota has been working with Vedanta for about a year. It is time that all such fraudulent organisations and individuals operating in the Niyamgiri area to mislead the people be exposed to the world.

The name of these deceptive organisations is:

i. Niyamgiri Vedanta Nagar(Rehabilitation Colony)

ii. Lanjigarh Anchalika Bikash Parishad

iii. Nabin Vikash Trust

iv. Lanjigarh Unnayan Anchalika Samiti

v. Alumina Refinery Labour Union

vi. Niyamgiri Adivasi Vikash Parishad

vii. Shakti Organisation

viii. Kui Bikash Parishad

Vedanta was carrying out illegal expansion of its refinery and has caused massive pollution in the area which has been highlighted in great details by the N C Saxena report as well as many other independent reports. But Vedanta has been trying to divert attention from its misdeeds by engineering acts like yesterday's PIL and at the same time it has been suppressing genuine local voices by using goondas and the police. It is clear that such combing operations like yesterday are carried out exactly at the time when it would suit Vedanta the most. The forces also target key leaders and activists of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti like Lado Sikaka.

While we will continue to intensify our peaceful and democratic protest against Vedanta's refinery and will continue to expose Vedanta's drama like the PIL yesterday we demand for the immediate release of Paiku Sikaka and Bamuna Sikaka; the withdrawal of all paramilitary forces from the Niyamgiri area and that such regular combing operations in the name of fighting Maoism to suppress anti Vedanta tribal activists be stopped. We also condemn public welfare agencies like DKDA and public servants like Mr. A. B. Ota for conniving with Vedanta to dupe the people instead of serving the interest of the people.


Tribals take out rally against Vedanta Alumina project

The Hindu

30 October 2010

Some 5,000 activists from Kalahandi and Rayagada took part in it

BERHAMPUR: Ethnic tribals of Niyamgiri area organised a rally against the Vedanta Alumina Limited (VAL) at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district on Saturday.

It was held at a juncture when the VAL and the Orissa government are contemplating to approach the Supreme Court against the scrapping of Vedanta's bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri hills by the Environment and Forests ministry of Central government.

This rally had been convened by the Niyamgiri Surakshya Samity (NSS), the organisation fighting against proposal of bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills and the rights of Dongria Kondh tribals since 2002.

The slogan for this rally was ‘Khani Nahin ta factory Nahin, Vedanta Company Rahiba Kahin' (Without mines there can be no refinery, then why should Vedanta be here).

Around 5,000 activists mostly tribals of Niyamgiri area from Kalahandi and Rayagada districts took part in it. Leaders of different organisations like Lok Sangram Manch (LSM), Samajwadi Jan Parishad (SJP), CPI (ML-New Democracy), Sachetan Nagarika Manch of Kalahandi who had supported NSS in its fight against Vedanta since its inception also took part in this rally as invitees.

Allegations

There were also allegations related to efforts of the State government and Vedanta officials to sabotage this rally. To counter this anti-Vedanta rally of locals of Niyamgiri hills, an organisation named Lanjigarh Vikas Samity (LVS) also took out a counter rally and met the Kalahandi Collector in support of VAL and its plans to mine Niyamgiri hills for bauxite. The NSS activists alleged that government agencies and VAL officials were behind this organisation.

CPI (ML-New Democracy) leader Bhala Chandra Sarangi alleged that activists on their way to this rally from Muniguda area in Rayagada district were stopped near Bijabandili and Asuragada by supporters of the VAL.

Similarly leader of LSM from Muniguda Haribandhu Kadraka was allegedly stopped by police to refrain him from attending the public meeting. He was released when the crowd threatened to gherao the Lanjigarh police station, Mr. Sarangi said.

Initially the NSS had planned to hold its public meeting against the company in front of the gate of refinery complex of the company at Lanjigarh. But administration had imposed restrictions under Section 144 of CrPC in the area. So, the venue of the meeting had to be shifted to a spot near the conveyor belt of the VAL refinery at Lanjigarh. The NSS activists took out a rally from Kadamguda, which culminated at this spot for a public meeting.

Speakers in the public meeting like Lingaraj Azad of Jan Parishad, Mr. Sarangi, Mr. Kadraka and NSS leaders like Lada Sikaka said they would continue their long-term agitation till the refinery of VAL at Lanjigarh was closed down.

They also added that a large number of agitators had faced atrocities at the hands of goons of the company as well as the police. Several activists of the NSS had cases pending against them as they had protested against the Vedanta project.

The NSS demanded the government to immediately quash all the cases pending against the anti-Vedanta activists. It was also demanded the company should be compelled to pay up compensation to the families who suffered due to these false cases.

As per the NSS functioning of the Laniigarh refinery was illegal as the company had not received mining clearance and its functioning can only mean efforts are continuing through dubious means to get mining permission in Niyamgiri area again.

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