South Asia updatePublished by MAC on 2007-07-11
South Asia update
11th July 2007
Activities have marched on the state capital to further protest Vedanta's plans to mine and refine bauxite at Lanjigarh. Also opposition to Jindal's similar controversial proposal in eastern Andhra Pradesh continues to grow, with officials boycotting a state government meeting in order to get the projet cancelled, especially over water concerns.
People rise against Vedanta
Statesman News Service
10th July 2007
BHUBANESWAR : The activists of Green Kalahandi held their recent satyagraha at Lanjigarh with a march to the state capital protesting against the undue favour shown by the state government to the Vedanta Group of Industries and the handing over of the Niyamgiri mines to the MNC, without paying heed to the lives of the local residents. Addressing the activists, who had come from Kalahandi district, the former Union minister Mr Bhakta Charan Das, who in many ways is seeking political rehabilitation, said that acts of omission and commission by the state government vis-à-vis the Vedanta plant stood exposed. If the government does not pay any heed to their righteous demand of stopping Vedanta, thousands of affected people will paralyse the government and the Assembly, Mr Das warned.
He dared the chief minister, Mr Naveen Patnaik, to order a CBI probe and come clean on the corruption involved in the major deals, including Vedanta. Alleging that MNCs such as Vedanta and Posco are now interfering in the internal matters of the state government, Mr Das announced that they would fight against such injustices by following Gandhian principles. Mr Das said that Kalahandi, known for its poverty, starvation deaths, infant sale and drought is now marching forward on the path of development after the multi-purpose Indravati project and many families are benefiting. But the proposed aluminum plant on the very base of Niyamagiri at Lanjigarh will ruin the district once again. The state government's alleged permission to extract bauxite from Niyamagiri will rob the district of all its hopes, because the hill would play an instrumental role in the long-term development process. The perennial streams would dry up, the elephant corridor would be destroyed and the ecology of the area would be devastated if Niyamagiri is mined, Mr Das added.
The Orissa Pradesh Congress president Mr Jayadev Jena said that the state government, in the name of industrialisation and development, is playing with the livelihood of inhabitants of Kalahandi. The Naveen Patnaik government is playing into the hands of MNCs and is busy raising funds for elections at the expense of land and the livelihood of the people, Mr Das charged. Pledging support for Green Kalahandi, the Congress party chief exhorted the activists to carry forward the agitation. The social activist Mr Prafulla Samantara, who is one of the petitioners in the Supreme Court case regarding the Vedanta project and the mining of Niyamagiri hills said that people would suffer for this indiscriminate act of the state government. The Central Empowered Committee did raise its objections initially, and several environmentalists have opposed the project, but the government is adamant, Mr Samantara noted. No proper study has been undertaken by the state government, and this will result in an acute shortage of drinking water in the area, according to him. The CPI-M leader Mr Janardan Pati lashed out at the state government for its anti-farmer attitude. Several MLAs of the Congress party addressed the gathering in front of the Assembly.
Opposition to Jindal mounts
Correspondent, The Hindu Daily - http://www.hindu. com/2007/ 07/11/stories/ 2007071160350500.htm
11th July 2007
VIZIANAGARAM: TDP, CPI and CPI(M) leaders on Tuesday vowed to oppose setting up of alumina refinery at Boddavara in S.Kota mandal.
All parties under the banner Jindal Alumina Vyathirekha Porata Committee planned to organise a 'maha dharna' at Boddavara junction. However, following the denial of permission by the police, the parties decided to organise a public meeting. And this too was held on the narrow road margin of Visakhapatnam- Araku Road. According to former MLA Sobha Hymavathi, the police stopped vehicles carrying people from various mandals to the meeting venue. In fact, police outnumbered the people.
In protest against the "police high-handedness" the protesters and TDP and Left party leaders, including P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju, P. Kameswara Rao (CPI), Tammineni Suryanarayana (CPI-M), squatted on the road for about 20 minutes and raised slogans against Jindal and Minister for Housing Botcha Satyanarayana.
Earlier, addressing the gathering, CPI leader Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy said the struggle against the Jindal's Alumina unit would be intensified with the support of all political parties in Visakhapatnam and Vizianagaram districts and also raise the issue in the Assembly. He said that in the name of irrigation projects and SEZs over six lakh people were being displaced. Of them four-and-a-half lakhs were tribals, he said and advised the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy Government to withdraw the proposal.
Mr. Ashok Gajapathi Raju said it was unfortunate that the Government had turned a deaf ear to the majority opinion of small and marginal farmers, who were once Thadipudi reservoir oustees.
He said the pollutants from the factory would contaminate Gosthani water on which three municipalities viz Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam and Bhimili depend for drinking water. He assured the gathering that all opposition parties would fight for their cause. Former ministers Reddy Satyanarayana, Bandaru Satyanarayana, TDP president Y. Ramana Murty, former MLAs were present.
Not a pleasant experience for Minister
Special Correspondent, The Hindu - http://www.hindu. com/2007/07/11/stories/2007071158930300.htm
11th July 2007
TDP, CPI and BJP workers stage dharna at venue of DRC meeting - With his vehicle blocked, he walks a short distance - As sparks fly over mining, officials boycott the meet
VISAKHAPATNAM: The first meeting of the District Review Committee (DRC) he chaired on Tuesday after being made Minister In-charge of Visakhapatnam has not been a pleasant experience for Transport Minister Kanna Lakshminarayna.
Telugu Desam, CPI and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders and workers staged a dharna near the Zilla Praja Parishad office building where the DRC meeting was held, demanding that the Government drop the proposal of bauxite mining and setting up the alumina refineries in the plain area.
They insisted that a part of water meant for the city be not diverted to the Jindal refinery in S. Kota mandal. They also raised slogans demanding better water supply to all localities including police quarters.
As they blocked his vehicle, Mr. Lakshminarayana got down and walked a short distance to the ZPP office with the police pushing away the protestors.
As soon as the meeting commenced, the TDP MLAs wanted their questions on irregularities and corruption in some irrigation works and GVMC's agreement with the Jindal company on water supply taken up first. There were heated arguments between the TDP and Congress and the agenda was not taken up.
During these arguments, officers boycotted the meeting after a TDP MLA Chengala Venkata Rao tried to obstruct the officials from reading the agenda and roughed up a constable in plainclothes. Mr. Venkata Rao did not apologise to the officers but insisted after the meeting was postponed that the Minister apologise to him "first for provoking him and others by not heeding their request and also insisting that the officers go ahead with the agenda" even as the TDP members were asking him to take up their questions first.
Mr. Lakshminarayana said the TDP only wanted to create chaos and not development but his question to the members of DRC whether they wanted development or nuisance was also objected to by MLC M.V.S. Sarma, who wanted the Minister to withdraw the question.
"We are against the decisions that will destroy the people", he said. Later the Minister regretted mistaking Anakapalle MP Pappala Chalapathi Rao for an MLC and saying that he was not a member of the DRC. He repeatedly said "sorry" for the mistake.
Unruly scenes at Vizag DRC meeting
Special Correspondent, The Hindu - http://www.hindu. com/2007/07/11/stories/2007071156940400.htm
11th July 2007
Heated arguments between Telugu Desam Party, Congress members for 90 minutes - Telugu Desam MLA roughs up policeman in mufti - District officials boycott meet due to lack of security
VISAKHAPATNAM: Heated arguments between the Telugu Desam and Congress members, a TDP MLA Chengala Venkata Rao roughing up a policeman in mufti and snatching agenda papers from officials, and district officers boycotting the meeting due to lack of security for them, marked the District Review Committee meeting held here on Tuesday.
For one-and-a-half hours, the TDP and Congress members along with the Minister in-charge and Chairman of the DRC, Kanna Lakshminarayana, were involved in heated arguments after TDP MLAs Ganta Srinivasa Rao and Mr Venkata Rao wanted response to the questions they had sent to the Collector on the previous day. They along with party MP P. Chalapathi Rao said that the tradition of DRC was to take up important questions first while the Minister said they would be allotted time after the agenda was completed.
These questions were regarding corruption and the poor quality of work in the case of three irrigation works in Payakaraopeta constituency, details of the agreement the GVMC had made with Jindal company to supply water to the alumina refinery and details of the public hearing on the plant held near S. Kota. The TDP alleged that the ruling party was trying to avoid the questions as the irrigation works were done by Chief Minister's close relative.
Twice the Minister wanted the officials to read the agenda but the latter were stopped from doing so and the agenda papers were snatched by Mr. Venkata Rao. There was more trouble later when the Chief Executive Officer of Zilla Praja Parishad P. Rama Rao started reading the agenda. Mr. Venkata Rao rushed towards the officer asking him to stop.
A couple of plainclothes policemen standing near Mr. Rama Rao tried to prevent the MLA and it was then that Mr. Venkata Rao roughed up one of them and pushed him away. Later, he said that policemen should not be present inside the place where the DRC was held. He had mistaken the policeman for a Congress goonda and pushed him away, the MLA said.
It was immediately after this incident that the officials left the meeting hall in protest against the MLA's behaviour towards the officials. The Minister adjourned the meeting for half-an-hour and when the dispute was not resolved, postponed it.
High drama at DRC meet
10th July 2007
Visakhapatnam, : The Bauxite issue has stalled the proceedings of the District Review Committee meeting on Tuesday. While the TD MLA from Payakaraopeta Chengala Venkat Rao prevented taking up of the agenda by forcibly snatching the papers from the zilla parishad chief executive officer P. Rama Rao, the other district officials boycotted the meeting demanding apology from the MLA for his alleged highhanded behaviour towards an official. The MLA also manhandled a policeman in plain clothes who tried to stop him while going to the podium. Mr Vekata Rao snatched papers from the ZP CEO and manhandled a police constable in the meeting hall to make his point.
The district officials who were upset with the MLA's behaviour boycotted the meeting, which was ultimately adjourned without taking up any proceedings. The officials demanded that the MLA should tender a written apology to them.
Minutes after the meeting began, the in-charge minister Kanna Lakshminarayana, who was presiding the meeting directed the officials to go with the prescribed agenda. When the officials were about to follow his instructions, Chengala Venkata Rao objected by saying that issues like supply of Godavari water to Jindal refinery and irregularities in the construction of a bund on Thandava river should be discussed before taking up the agenda.
He replied that the issues raised by TDP MLA did not figure in the agenda, therefore, discussion would be allowed after the agenda was taken up. The TD leaders said that the bauxite issue was also crucial. Along with Chodavaram MLA Ganta Srinivasa Rao and and Anakapalli MP Pappala Chalapati Rao, Mr. Venkata Rao argued that he sent a letter to the collector A.K. Singhal on Monday, seeking clarifications on the above issues.
Mr Singhal, then clarified that he received the letter late in the evening and he would submit details later. Not satisfied with the answer, TDP leaders rushed to the podium.
Forum questions industrial water commitments
Staff Reporter, The Hindu Daily
10th July 2007
'Three north coastal districts facing a threat of water crisis' - VUDA, GVMC and Government indifferent, says Forum for Better Visakha - VBF says some parties joining hands with private companies
Visakhapatnam: The Forum for Better Visakha (FBV), a coalition of NGOs and concerned citizens, has pointed out a mismatch between future commitments for industrial needs and availability of water in general and for irrigation and drinking purposes in particular. The forum has been opposing the proposed diversion of water to an alumina refinery in Vizianagaram district as it would be at the expense of agricultural and drinking water needs.
According to forum convener and former Union Energy Secretary EAS Sarma, the Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority's Master Plan has put the total water available from all reservoirs in the region and the Godavari canal at 219 million gallons per day (mgd) by 2021.
The requirements of the committed and yet-to-be committed industrial units in the region alone add up to 256 mgd, he said in a press release here on Monday. That itself would leave a deficit of 37 mgd, not counting the needs for irrigation and drinking in rural and urban areas, he contended.
On the other hand, the Master Plan estimates the irrigation and drinking water needs by 2021 would amount to 145 mgd, Mr.Sarma said. The forum is of the view that the manner in which industrial needs were being cleared indiscriminately, it would deprive irrigation of water in the northern districts. Besides, Visakhapatnam and other neighbouring towns and villages that had already been facing a severe water shortage would be further affected adversely, he said describing it as a serious situation that all responsible citizens should condemn and resist.
Mr. Sarma said the upstream bauxite-mining project that was supposed to feed ore to the refinery would itself destroy precious aquifers in the Eastern ghats that generate water for different rivers flowing in north Andhra region. Again, according to the Master Plan, some of the natural reservoirs that provide water to the city are drying up, Mr. Sarma says. The normal supplies from Mudasarlova, Gambhiram, Gosthani, Thatipudi, Meghadrigedda, Raiwada and Yeleru add up to 39 mgd whereas the present supply capability was only 12 mgd.
He said the apathy and indifference of VUDA and GVMC and the government, in a way, were squarely responsible for the unfortunate situation.
Cautioning that the citizens and farmers of the three north coastal districts were indeed facing a threat of an impending water crisis, he said representatives of some political parties seemed to be surreptitiously joining hands with private companies in diverting precious water supplies to the detriment of public interest.
The attempts should be condemned outright and resisted, he said.