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quot;Kalahandi district collector Saswat Mishra, instead of coming to people's aid, is acting as a

Published by MAC on 2005-06-15

"Kalahandi district collector Saswat Mishra, instead of coming to people's aid, is acting as an agent of Vedanta Alumina"

By Insight, Orissa Bureau

June 15 2005

"This company is a tyrant and conspires to devastate our lives as well as our livelihood. And, the district collector Saswat Mishra, instead of coming to our aid, is acting as an agent of the company tormenting us more through the administrative mechanism."

This was the desperate plea of several tribal forums before the high power committee delegated by the Supreme Court to investigate into the controversy generated by the mindless and illegal denudation of forest by Vedanta alumina in the Niyamgiri hills of Kalahandi district. District collector Mishra was present in the hearing when the simpleton hill men indicted him.

The two-member committee headed by its chairman T.V. Jayakrishnan conducted a public hearing in Bhawanipatna on June 14th where ninety per cent of the deponents spewed venom against Vedanta and urged the committee to kick the company out of Kalahandi. Kalahandi Lok Sabha MP B.K Singh Deo, however, wished the alumina plant to come but no rules be compromised in the process.

The committee, during the course of the hearing, disdainfully observed hat the empowered committee had categorically pointed out mass destruction of forests with consequent effect of ecological disaster, which includes muffling of the source from which flows river Bansidhara. The State Government, too, admitted in its affidavit that illegal deforestation had taken place. Yet, nothing has been done so far to stop such activities.

Meanwhile, mandarins of the State administration are searching for a rational reply to be given to the apex court committee, which would discuss the vexed issues with the Government on 16th June. Skipping the special holiday on 14th June declared by the Government due to the heat wave, a confidential meeting was held in the State Secretariat where a plausible and acceptable reply was discussed by Chief Secretary Subas Pani, Steel and Mines Secretary Bhaskar Chatterjee and Forest and Environment Secretary Satya Prakash Nanda.

The committee visited the Vedanta project site in Lanjigarh on 15th June after its public hearing in Bhawanipatna.

Biswajit Mohanty

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