MAC: Mines and Communities

House on boil over Vedanta

Published by MAC on 2006-08-04

House on boil over Vedanta

NewIndPress Bhubaneswar

4th August 2006

A united Opposition today turned the heat on the Naveen Patnaik government, accusing it of "selling away" Orissa's interest in the bauxite deal with Vedanta Alumina.

Arun Dey of the Orissa Gana Parishad alleged that the chief minister and other members of the NDA government had received "political donations" from the company, triggering angry protests from the treasury bench.

The OGP leader claimed that Vedanta had earmarked $2.6 million as payment for politicians.

Tempers ran high when Dey described a majority stake holder of the company as a "fraud" and a "friend of the chief minister" during a discussion on the proposed 1-million-tonne alumina refinery in Kalahandi district's Lanjigarh.

The chief minister, who was away in his chamber, rushed to the House to counter the allegation. "Let him prove it any time in 10, 20 or 30 years," he challenged.

The OGP leader clarified that he called Patnaik's "friend", and not the chief minister, a "fraud".

Referring to the findings of a committee appointed by the Supreme Court to assess the environmental impact of bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri hills, leader of Opposition and Congress leader J.B. Patnaik said the report "virtually indicted" the government by raising serious concerns about the bio-diversity of the area.

Accusing the government of showing undue favour to Vedanta, JB said: "Naveen had laid the foundation stone for the Vedanta refinery in 2004 with undue haste, without studying the environment impact and without obtaining environmental clearance from the Centre. "This proves the soft corner of the government towards Vedanta," he added.

Congress leaders L.B. Mohapatra, T.P. Bahinipati, Jaydev Jena and Nalinikanta Mohanty referred to the recent study of a two-member team from Dehra Dun's Wildlife Institute of India, which said the Vedanta projects would irreversibly alter the bio-diversity of the area.

Defending the projects, steel and mines minister Padmanabha Behera said the agreement signed with the company was in the best interests of the state. The bauxite mines would not be handed over to Vedanta and instead, the Orissa Mining Corporation would operate them, the minister said. He added that the OMC would get consideration money, statutory dues and dividend, apart from royalty. Behera said the latest report did not take into account the proposed wildlife protection measures in Lanjigarh.

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