MAC: Mines and Communities

People rise against Vedanta

Published by MAC on 2007-07-10

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.

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