MAC: Mines and Communities

British company accused of "tyrrany" and land grab in India

Published by MAC on 2005-06-24

British company accused of "tyrrany" and land grab in India

Just as it issues its Annual Report and Accounts for 2005, British-based Vedanta Resources plc has been accused of new outrages. Vedanta Resources plc has come under renewed attack for its activities in two Indian states. In mid-June the vast majority of those attending a public hearing before the Supreme Court's Central Empowered Committee (CEC) condemned the company's continued construction of its Lanjigarh alumina refinery in Kalahandi district, Orissa - and possible bauxite mine on the sacred Nyamgiri Hills just a few kilometeres away. At the same time, accusations were made against the district's leading public official that he is effectively an agent for Vedanta. Last week a government minister in the adjacent state of Chhattisgarh alleged that Vedanta's BALCO subsidiary had seized no less than a thousand acres of government land for the huge expansion of its Korba alumininum plant, felling 20,000 trees and angering local villagers in the process.

Land grab mud on Balco

R. Krishna Das, The Telegraph (Kolkota)

June 24 2005

Raipur - The Chhattisgarh-based Bharat Aluminium Company Limited (Balco) has come under the scanner for allegedly encroaching on 1,000 acres of prime land and cutting down thousands of trees for its expansion project.

“The company grabbed about 1,000 acres of government land besides cutting down 20,000 trees without taking permission from the agencies concerned,” Nankiram Kanwar, then Chhattisgarh revenue minister, said on Thursday.

In a shuffle today, Kanwar was shifted to the agriculture ministry with additional charge of forests.

The Korba-based company has denied the charges. The land had been allotted to Balco between 1968 and 1975, the company’s chief of corporate communications, Deepak Pachpore, said in a statement released on Thursday evening.

The statement added that the subdivisional officer has investigated the felling of trees and the company is awaiting the report’s findings.

The government has ordered a high-level inquiry and the commissioner of land records has been asked to supervise the investigation.

“After getting the report, the state government will take the appropriate step. The state government will not falter even in razing the constructions done under the expansion plan,” Kanwar said, before he was shifted from the ministry.

The minister also hinted at action against state administration officials for not acting on the complaint of the villagers.

The government’s action came after Kanwar last month verified a complaint lodged about six months ago by villagers that the Vedanta group company, located about 200 km from here, had encroached on government land and cut down trees worth crores of rupees.

“This is the first incident of its kind when such a huge area of land has been encroached (on) by a company,” Kanwar said on Thursday. The minister said he had briefed chief minister Raman Singh on the developments.

The development is likely to come as a big jolt to the expansion plan of Balco, which was divested in 2001.

The Vedanta group, managed by London-based Anil Agrawal, acquired 51 per cent equity and management control of the company.

A Rs 5,000-crore expansion plan was charted out after a memorandum of understanding with the state government was inked. The company set itself a target of producing 3.45 metric tonnes per annum (mtpa) of aluminium.

Balco, which now produces 1 lakh mtpa, would become the largest producer of aluminium in the country after the completion of the expansion project, according to company officials.

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