MAC: Mines and Communities

Favouring' VAL: Government under fire

Published by MAC on 2006-08-05

'Favouring' VAL: Government under fire

The New Indian Express

5th August 2006

BHUBANESWAR: The State Government on Friday maintained in the Assembly that the Supreme Court judgment on the Vedanta Alumina Limited's (VAL) project should be awaited even as the Opposition launched a scathing attack on Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for allegedly 'showing undue favour' to the company.

Referring to the reports of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Opposition members demanded that the Chief Minister should resign over the issue.

The CEC observed that the State Government has shown undue favour to the company and WII warned that mining on the Niyamgiri hills would lead to environmental and ecological disaster, Leader of Opposition J B Patnaik said and demanded further discussion on the matter.

The issue cropped up through an Opposition-sponsored adjournment motion. Pressing for the demand of Chief Minister's resignation, Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra (Cong) alleged that Naveen laid the foundation stone for the project before the Centre gave its clearance. Alleging that the company to set up its plant at Lanjigarh felled thousands of trees, Mohapatra said the State Government took no action against it for violation of the Forest Act.

Arun Dey (OGP) created a flutter by referring to the book 'Vedanta's Millions' in which it has been mentioned that the company has distributed $2.5 million as donation to political parties. There were loud protests from the ruling parties when Dey alleged that the Chief Minister and BJD leaders were recipients of the company's donation. Dey claimed that the company has been blacklisted in many foreign countries.

Claiming that many top leaders across political parties have joined hands with the company's owner Anil Agarwal, the OGP leader alleged that Naveen is one of them. However, Finance Minister Prafulla Chandra Ghadei took exception to a remark reported to have been made by Dey on the Chief Minister during his speech and wanted it to be expunged. Naveen, who was not in the House, rushed in and dared Dey to prove his allegations? 'You take 20/30 years but prove it,' Naveen said.

Tara Prasad Bahinipati, Jaydeb Jena and Nalini Kanta Mohanty (all Cong) criticised the Government for entering into a deal with VAL, which is against the interest of the State and also questioned the Government's decision to provide 8000 acres land to the company for setting up a university. Nowhere in the world universities are set up on so much land, Mohanty said. BJD members Kalpataru Das and Atanu Sabyasachi, however, blamed the Congress for entering into an agreement with the company in 1997.

Defending the Government decision, Minister for Steel and Mines Padmanabha Behera countered Opposition claims that the tribals of the area do not want the plant to be set up at Lanjigarh. 'In fact, the tribals want the plant there,' he said. Behera defended the agreement reached between the VAL and OMC for mining of bauxite.

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