At the beginning was the money-filled suitcase,
The Suitcase was with Naveen Patnaik’s Orissa Government,
And Naveen Patnaik’s Orissa Government was Suitcase,
The Suitcase given by illegal miners from England
With true “Vedanta” persistence and
total devotion to unabashed Plunder of Orissa!!
Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister for Environment and Forests has covered himself with everlasting glory (Tuesday, 24 August 2010) by successfully thwarting the nefarious attempts of a coterie of international corporate gangsters called the Vedanta Resources Plc of United Kingdom which wanted to strip the thick forest cover of the Niyamgiri Hills of Orissa which range over 250 kilometres across the districts of Rayagada, Kalahandi and Koraput in Orissa.
The Niyamgiri Hills of Orissa are home to more than 8,000 Dongaria Kondhs and other tribes who are now wholeheartedly engaged in what they have been doing for centuries: defending their hills, forests and streams. This time, however, they were facing a more formidable enemy than ever --- a mining giant that calls itself “Vedanta”, a term that in Hindu philosophy embodies centuries of spiritual knowledge and traditional wisdom. The name Vedanta, adopted from Hindu Philosophy, is only a mask for covering the face of corporate avarice and illegal loot and colonial-style plunder of mineral resources in the Niyamgiri Hills area of Orissa State. While the Orissa State Government seems to have been purchased wholesale by the Vedanta Resources with tremendous corporate resolve, the Dongaria Kondhs and other tribals seem to be equally determined to fight against the money power of the Vedanta Company and the State power of the Orissa Government in order to save themselves and their natural habitat in the Niyamgiri Hills from total extinction and decimation.
Timeline of Vedanta mine imbroglio by livemint.com Wed, Aug 25 2010
09 September 2007: British mining giant Vedanta Resources faces fresh delays in its battle to mine an Indian forest considered sacred by tribal people after the nation’s top court ordered a sweeping impact study. Vedanta Resources Plc’s legal fight to mine the area is being seen in India as a test case, pitting industrial development interests against those of indigenous peoples and the environment.
08 August 2008: The Supreme Court has finally gives approval for Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd and Posco-India Pvt. Ltd to start projects which were delayed over protests and land disputes in Orissa.
25 September 2008: In India, investors in Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite Industries India Ltd sold shares following the announcement of the restructuring. Shares of the company lost almost one-fourth of their value in two weeks.
03 March 2009: The metal and mining major Vedanta Resources saw prices of all its major products dip by about 60% in the past six months due to the slackening demand arising from the global industrial downturn.
09 March 2009: Vedanta Resources has lined up a whopping Rs 70,000 crore investment in its aluminium, copper, zinc and iron ore businesses in India by 2011-12.
05 June 2009: Vedanta Resources is in dialogue with a syndicate of banks to arrange the debt, which would be used for expanding its aluminium production capacity in Orissa.
10 July 2009: The start of the mining to feed the alumina refinery in Orissa has been delayed for at least four years by protests from indigenous Dongaria tribal people, who consider the area that will be mined as their traditional, hereditary and primordial sacred ground.
11 November 2009: The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) rejected proposed amendments on relaxing environmental norms for industrial expansion and modernization. While some say that the amendments would not have been beneficial for the environment, others claim that continuing the clearance process for such projects will deter India from achieving its 10% economic growth target. Vedanta continues to ignore protests by local residents. It bought Mitsui and Co.’s majority stake in Sesa Goa Ltd, a major iron ore extractor and exporter, in 2007.
02 February 2010: The Church of England announced it had sold its six-million-dollar stake in Vedanta because the company had not shown “the level of respect for human rights and local communities that we expect”.
03 February 2010: Documents made available before National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) following a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by an environmental activist group in July brought to public light the fact that clearance for the Sterlite’s project given by the Ministry of Environment and Forests was based on a report that was different than the one shared with residents of the area during public hearings. Companies building large plants have to conduct studies on the impact their project will have on the environment and share this with the affected population through public hearings. This is part of the mandated approval process for industrial projects in India.
09 February 2010: Amnesty International calls for halt to Vedanta’s mine plans. The government should not allow mining an Indian forest held sacred by tribal people until it gets their “informed consent”. The Amnesty report had alleged that Alumina mining in Orissa by Vedanta has affected the communities living in that area and led to violations of human rights.
22 February 2010: Public outcry to persuade Government to direct the mines pay more for displaced people. For years villagers and tribesmen have opposed several projects such as India-focused miner Vedanta Resources Plc’s bauxite mines and Posco’s proposed steel plant in the eastern state of Orissa. The protests have been often violent, with Maoist rebels killing people, disrupting mining operations and damaging property in eastern and central India, saying companies were exploiting the region and its mineral wealth.
14 march 2010: In two separate letters to officials of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Orissa’s Forest and Environment Department Special Secretary B P Singh baselessly asserted that the proposed mining by Vedanta Resources jointly with Orissa Mining Corporation is not in violation of any law.
16 March 2010: Vedanta wants to mine bauxite for its alumina refinery in Orissa, but the project, bogged down since 2005, is opposed by tribal people who fear losing their traditional homes, habitat and livelihood.
24 June 2010: The minister wants to protect and expand India’s remaining forest land as part of a strategy to fight climate change, even if it means refraining from mining about a quarter of the country’s mineral reserves.
30 June 2010: A new 4-member N.C Saxena Committee formed by Union Environment Ministry would investigate the “specific impact on the livelihood, culture and material welfare” of a local tribal group in Orissa.
22 July 2010: Government ministers meet to consider revamping a five-decade old mining law that tries to balance the needs of investors with those of locals affected by the industry. Plan aims for 26% equity for affected people.
16 August 2010: The N C Saxena Committee formed by Union Environment Ministry said: “Allowing Vedanta mining in the proposed area in Orissa by depriving tribals of their rights may have serious consequences.”
23 August 2010: Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and raised concerns over the delay in environment clearances to projects like the Posco steel project and Vedanta bauxite mining initiative.
24 August 2010: After five long years of court hearings, violent public protests, Centre-State wrangling and media coverage, the Union Government denied permission for bauxite mining at Niyamgiri in Orissa, settling the dispute in favour of the tribe that’s indigenous to the area.
In a big blow to Vedanta Resources, Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister for Environment and Forests, categorically rejected environment clearance to its USD 1.7 billion bauxite mining project in Orissa after accepting the recommendations of its key Committee constituted for clearing such ventures. Giving reasons for the denial of clearance, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told the Press that “here has been a very serious violation of Environment Protection Act, Forest Conservation Act and the Forest Rights Act. There have been no emotions and no politics and no prejudice involved in this report. I have taken this decision in a proper legal approach.” By making such a bold announcement in the larger public interest, without any fear or favour, Jairam Ramesh has clearly shown that he is the only Union Cabinet Minister duly endowed with the qualities of sound judgment, courage, integrity and long-term vision. Those who dismissed Environment as a light weight ministry are ruing it now. His visit to Bhopal in September 2009 put the spotlight on the toxic waste lying there since the 1984 Union Carbide plant gas leak. Later in April 2010, he announced the setting up of the first National Green Tribunal in Bhopal.
During the last five years, I have repeatedly attacked the Sonia Congress UPA Government as completely wanting in integrity, accountability and vision. Most of the disgraceful Union Cabinet Ministers have been as of right functioning as imbecilic invertebrates with no political or official commitment to the classical ministerial virtues of accountability, transparency and integrity. Jairam Ramesh seems to be a spectacular exception to this run of cheap, crude, venal toadies who populate the Union Council of Ministers. I am of the view that he is an outstanding Minister in the line of great ministers of India like Gobind Vallabh Pant, T.T Krishnamachari, C. Subramaniam and the like.
The Union Government’s decision to stop the rape of forest wealth of Orissa by the Vedanta Resources freebooters and carpetbaggers came after the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) which after reviewing the suggestions given by the N C Saxena Committee, gave a report to Union Minister Jairam Ramesh propsing a ban on the ravenous mining project in Orissa's Niyamgiri Hills in view of various and grievous violations at the site. The N. C Saxena Committee was set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to investigate if the Orissa State Government and the aluminium giant Vedanta Resources had complied with the Forest Rights Act and Forest Conservation Act while mining for bauxite. It is a huge turnaround for the Union Government itself on the case. As the N. C Saxena Committee Report pointed out, the Union Government had earlier looked the other way when infringements were reported to it. The stern report of the Committee signaled that tribal rights and environmental issues have finally muscled their way onto the governance agenda, forcing the authorities to take action against corporate bodies who may have shown disregard for laws and rules.
N C Saxena Committee consisted of four member:
Dr N C Saxena, Indian Administrative Service (Retd.) former Secretary to the Planning Commission
Dr S Parasuraman, Director, Tata Institute of Social Sciences;
Dr Promode Kant, Indian Forest Service (Retd.), Director, Institute of Green Economy (IGREC); and
Dr Amita Baviskar, Professor, Institute of Economic Growth.
The N. C Saxena Committee Report has citied many violations of the in-principle environment clearance given to Orissa Mining Corporation in 2008 including non-compliance with the provisions of the Forest Rights Act. The Committee has observed: “The consent certificate of the Gram Sabha was fake.”
The report reveals exhaustive evidence to nail the complicity of the Naveen Patnaik headed Orissa State Government in permitting Vedanta to flagrantly violate the laws.
This Committee has noted large-scale violations and taking note of these flagrant violations by Vedanta Resources, the Committee has recommended that the project should be scrapped forthwith. Union Minister Ramesh has said: “We are examining what action has to be taken against the project proponents for violation of various laws including the EPA,” while his ministry has already suspended the term of reference and the appraisal process for the Vedanta's refinery expansion at the site.
In a move that is likely to make the things more difficult for Vedanta Resources, Union Minister Ramesh has said that a show-cause notice has also been issued to it as to why the clearance for the one million tonnes per annum alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Orissa should not be cancelled in view of gross violation of environment norms.
The FAC in its report submitted to Ramesh yesterday had agreed on most of the recommendations of the N.C Saxena Committee seeking ban on the mining project in Orissa's Niyamgiri Hills in view of various violations at the site "which would shake the faith of the tribals."
The N. C Saxena Committee has also recommended action against Vedanta Alumina Refinery at Lanjigarh saying that it has illegally encroached 26 hectares of forest land. “This despite the fact that the environmental clearance was given on the condition that no forest land would be used,” the Committee had said.
All right thinking people of India dedicated to the sacred cause of preservation of India’s natural and mineral resources are fully aware of the fact that the Vedanta Resources Inc, a British registered company is wholly committed to the cause of endless loot and plunder of mineral resources of Orissa and many other forested hilly regions of India, reminiscent of the rapacious English East India Company of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Dongaria tribals have been growing their own food on the Niyamgiri hills for generations. Dongaria tribal culture is sustainable in the true sense of the word, in that it is a way of living in which the indigenous people have been interacting with nature for hundreds of years without damaging the ecosystem. For the forest-dwelling locals, Vedanta's mining project would result in the demolition of the Dongria's centuries-old sacred grove on Niyamgiri, threatening their ancient way of life, right to water, food, livelihood and cultural identity.
In March 2009 the Dongaria and other tribes marched through dense forest to create a 17-km human wall along the base of Niyamgiri Hills to blockade the roads and thus to defend their sacred mountain and its biodiversity. This is a part of their sustained struggle to protect their traditional life style and livelihood. They are clear and firm about their objective of confronting the modern-day corporate terror and error unleashed BY a gangster company called ‘Vedanta’. This mining company seems to have bought up all the leading politicians of the Sonia Congress Party in Orissa. Likewise they have bought up the Patnaik Government of Orissa. Even though the Dongaria Kondh tribals are managing to hinder construction work, the new road has already reached the Dongaria village of Phuldumer, very close to the mine site.
One of the Dongaria Kondh tribal leaders from the village of Katraguma in the Kurli Panchayat in the area has raised this legitimate question: “How can we survive if our lands are taken away from us?” He is unable to understand as to how the source of their traditional livelihood can be mined for profit by a private corporate giant from Britain. He asserts that his people won't leave their land come what may, and that the hill tribal people will continue to resist every single attempt to evict them from their centuries old traditional tribal homelands.
Vedanta - a British company owned by London-based Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal - was launched on the London stock exchange as Vedanta Resources plc (VRP) in December 2003. What Vedanta signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Orissa government on 7 June 2003 to set up a 1-million-tonne alumina refinery, along with a 100-MW coal-fired power plant, at an investment of Rs 4,000 crore (just over US$800 million).
The major investors in Vedanta Resources include Barclays Bank (UK), Deutsche Bank (Germany) and ABN Amro (a consortium that includes the Dutch Government). The company plans to dig a vast open-cast bauxite mine in the Niyamgiri Hills to feed an alumina refinery that it has already built in the area, at Lanjigarh in south-west Orissa.
In the first week of March 2009 the Dongaria and other tribes marched through dense forest to create a 17-km human wall along the base of Niyamgiri Hills to blockade the roads and thus to defend their sacred mountain and its biodiversity. This is a part of their sustained struggle to protect their life source. They are preparing to confront the modern-day corporate terror unleased by a gangster company called ‘Vedanta’. This company has bought up all the leading politicians of the Sonia Congress Party. Likewise they have bought up the Patnaik Government of Orissa. Even though they are managing to hinder construction work, the new road has already reached the Dongaria village of Phuldumer, very close to the mine site.
The Orissa state government strongly backed the plan to mine the Niyamgiri hills and expects the project to bring development in the impoverished Kalahandi district where the mining sites and Vedanta's Lanjigarh Alumina refinery are located. Foreign investors are keen to gain control of Eastern India’s “mineral assets”, with promises of a new age of prosperity. Once these assets are fully exploited, the regions that were rich in minerals or oil, far from benefiting from such an extraction, are irreversibly and irretrievably launched into a vicious cycle of poverty and violence worse than anything seen before.
In November 2007, to the delight of the Dongaria tribal people, India's Supreme Court forbade Vedanta from mining the Niyamgiri Mountain. But it proved only a temporary reprieve: in August 2008 Sterlite, Vedanta's Indian subsidiary, came back with a somewhat modified proposal and was given the green signal by the Supreme Court of India. The Supreme Court case excluded Dongria opinion – one of the judges made an amazingly savage and racist comment that “tribal people have no place in this case”!
But the Dongaria Tribes are still putting up a brave fight. If mining goes ahead, two of India's strongest constitutional guarantees will be overturned;
- the right of a “primitive tribal group” to their territorial integrity and to decide on their own path of development (Schedule V of the Indian Constitution); and
- the right to religious practices and beliefs, since the summit of this mountain is a sacred place of worship to the Dongaria Kondh's supreme deity, Niyam Raja.
According to environmental activists, the open-cast mine would also wreck the rich biodiversity of the thickly forested hills and disrupt key water sources that supply springs and streams in the area and feed two rivers that irrigate extensive farmland. It is well established that when a mountain has a bauxite cap it retains monsoon water, releasing it slowly throughout the year. But when the bauxite is mined, the mountain loses this water-retaining capacity. The surrounding area hardens and the fertility-promoting qualities go into reverse. Water from the mountains feeds 36 streams and two rivers - Vanshadhara and Nagabali - that thousands of people depend upon for their water needs and to irrigate their crops.
It is not only the tribal peoples who are threatened with total extinction. The entire Niyamgiri range which is made up of hills, peaks, valleys and gorges, is very picturesque and the dense forests stretch for miles connecting four districts. Elephants and Bengal tigers cross this range. Other animals found here are leopard, sloth bear, pangolin, palm civet, giant squirrel, mouse deer, langur, rabbit, four-horned antelope, sambhar and numerous types of snake and lizard. New species of birds, amphibians and plants continue to be discovered in the area. Because of its ecological importance a proposal has been made to declare it as a wildlife sanctuary. An entire ecosystem will be destroyed if mining activity by Vedanta Resources is allowed in this richly diverse eco-bowl.
It is once again ironic that the Dongaria's resolve to safeguard the very essence of their identity is being depicted as “anti-development” and the tribal people themselves as “primitive” and “backward”. The fact is that the only really sustainable lifestyles are those of indigenous communities and others. They live according to the principles of self-sufficiency that are characteristic of tribal societies, and whose values and religion are based upon respect for nature. For them, to sell their mountains for large-scale mining is an act of pure greed - eating into the flesh of the sacred Mother Earth.
But for Vedanta Resources Plc such a philosophy holds no meaning. The mineral-rich earth is for them a resource to be exploited for corporate profit. Greed is the most essential part of their corporate policies and the flesh of the earth the perfect menu for fattening their balance sheets with filthy lucre. The unselfish motives of the “primitive” tribe of Dongaria are really a puzzle to them, a primitive obstacle to be overcome, if possible, or an inveterate tribal enemy to be obliterated, if necessary. Unfortunately for them, the tribal peoples of the area are not “civilized” and who refuse to listen to “reason” (threats and bribes offered with equal gusto!). The world waits with bated breath as the struggle between Goliath and David continues.
Flash floods, which are common here, will get aggravated by hilltop deforestation. A flash flood in Vamsadhara River can breach the red mud pond, causing disastrous wastewater spills into the river. The Orissa State Pollution Control Board has issued several warnings to Vedanta since its refinery trial started in 2006, calling its attention to the shoddy protective lining of the red mud pond that leeches wastewater into Vamsadhara River flowing next to it. Villagers use that water for drinking.
Green activists say the gravest concern pertains to water. Hilltop mining will dry up perennial water sources, while possible poor management of refinery wastewater could degrade surface water and pollute groundwater too. There is also concern about the huge quantities of water that the expanded refinery will consume daily.
In this context, Bhubaneswar-based environmentalist Biswajit Mohanty has rightly said: “Skin rashes and sores are common among residents. Some 40,000 truckloads of bauxite are transported to the refinery from outside Orissa per year, creating colossal air pollution arising from mud roads.”
Three-quarters of the targeted hill have thick forests. The 300 species of plants in them include 50 species of medicinal plants and trees, six of which are in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of threatened species. Apart from being an elephant reserve, these forests are also home to tigers, leopards, and barking deer.
In early November 2007, the world's second-largest sovereign pension fund, operated by the Norwegian government, sold all its shares in the London-listed mining major Vedanta Resources Plc, saying that investing in the company presented "an unacceptable risk of contributing to grossly unethical activities". Recently Vedanta has been seeing international investors sell their stakes in it due to ethical concerns over the Orissa project. Britain's Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust is the latest to leave, after the exit of the Church of England, the Norwegian government and Martin Currie Investment Management. International pressure to save the Dongria Kondh is mounting rapidly.
One of the Donghria Khond Tribals Rajendra Vadaka has definately declared: “Vedanta has come here to destroy the Dongria. We will drive them away. They don’t have any right to touch our mountains. Even if they behead us, we are not going to allow them to destroy our sacred mountain forest homeland.”
The Vedanta Resources Plc - a shady coterie of multinational corporate rodents - is solely committed to the total obliteration of India’s mineral and oil resources.
Many people seem to be unaware of importance of Bauxite. It is the most important aluminium ore. This form of rock consists mostly of the minerals gibbsite Al(OH)3, boehmite γ-AlO(OH), and diaspore α-AlO(OH), in a mixture with the two iron oxides goethite and hematite, the clay mineral kaolinite, and small amounts of anatase TiO2. Bauxite was named after the village Les Baux in southern France, where it was first recognized as containing aluminium and named by the French geologist Pierre Berthier in 1821.
The N C Saxena Committee pointed out how right from the beginning, the firm had furnished falsified reports to the Centre to seek clearance, and how the Orissa State officials ranging from the highest bureaucrats to the Collectors of two Districts either refused to enforce existing laws or simply colluded with the company to deny the tribals right over their lands.
The aluminium czar Anil Aggarwal's Vedanta company has illegally -- despite legal notices from the Orissa State Pollution Control Board -- begun building a refinery to produce 6 million tonnes of aluminium per annum instead of the 1 million tonnes per annum plant that it had got the green clearance for.
The no-holds-barred indictment by the N C Saxena committee of the state and private sector in the $1.7billion project brings out the short shrift given to concerns about tribal rights and environmental protection. It is significant also because it underlines the changed sensibilities of the lawless Naveen Patnaik Government of Orissa State towards the issues against the backdrop of Left-wing extremism and why Naxalites are finding it easy to influence alienated tribal belts. But the committee, even as it recommended that the mining project be disallowed, stopped short of asking for prosecution of the officials involved in what seems to be a blatant fraud that went unchecked for years. Union Minister for Enviroment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said: “The question of whom to prosecute is secondary. First, we have to consider the clearance.” Asked if the violations could be set right now, the Minister said, “Without prejudice to the existing case, it would be a tragedy that one violates laws and still has a window of opportunity to just pay a penalty and get away with it later.”
There is no doubt whatsoever that the shamelessly corrupt Naveen Patnaik Orissa Government has proved itself to be as corrupt as the publicly discredited Janaki Vallabh Patnaik Congress Government. I have no doubt that the people of Orissa who in their infinite sagacity threw out the highly venal Janaki Vallabh Patnaik Government will also deal a similar electoral blow to the Naveen Patnaik Government.
The highly corrupt Naveen Patnaik Government of Orissa today termed as “unfortunate” the Centre's decision to reject environment clearance to Vedanta's USD 1.7 billion bauxite mining project in Kalahandi district.
I fully endorse the editorial opinion of The Daily Pioneer that withdrawing the bauxite mining clearances given to Vedanta Resources, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has served the cause of protecting the environment and the rights of indigenous people from corporate marauders who place profit above all else and are least bothered by the long-term damage that is caused in the guise of ‘industrialisation’. Industrialisation is not about laying to waste the nation’s resources; it is about harnessing them in a just and wise manner.
The Orissa Government owned Odisha Mining Corporation which is under the control of the highly corrupt Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik worked its way around the Forest Rights Act by submitting fake certificates, claiming that gram sabhas had agreed to the mining of Niyamgiri hills, held sacred by the Dongria tribe, being mined for bauxite.
This immoral and lawless Naveen Patnaik Government of Orissa State needs to be dismissed forthwith. The N.C Saxena committee report records how the orissa state government falsified documents and concealed information from the union government to facilitate the aluminium refinery in mining bauxite while the company encroached upon government and tribal lands with impunity.
About One year ago Dr. Subramanian Swamy, that indefatigable and fearless fighter for saving the honour and chastity of Bharat Mata, now under the open assault and siege of global terrorist Islam, global evangelical Christianity, Indo-Chinese brand of Marxism and poisonous anti-Hindu Nehruvian secularism issued the following Press Statement:
“I demand that the Prime Minister drop Mr. P. Chidambaram from the Home Ministry because he is conflicted in his office, by his private interests, in the performance of his public duties.”
“I have documents with me to show that Mr. Chidambaram has had fiduciary and financial relations with Vedanta Resources Inc. as a paid Director on their Board as well as he was receiving fees for various legal opinion provided by him from time to time. He has also enjoyed at Vedanta Inc expense account his personal hospitality in London and provided with appropriate companionship there. Vedanta Inc has been paying the Maoists “silence” money on a commission basis for every wagon of ore shipped out of mines in Orissa. Hence how can Mr. Chidambaram be seen to be above board in dealing with Maoists?”
Partners in Corruption, Political Differences Notwithstanding
I fully share the view of Dr Subramanian Swamy. Mr Chidambaram is as guilty and as culpable as Mr Naveen Patnaik in the wholly shady and reprehensible Vedanta-gate affair - the Indian counterpart of the Watergate affair. The American citizens threw out President Nixon by raising the slogan of “Down with Watergate”. Likewise the citizens of Orissa must all come together and throw out Naveen Patnaik Government from power so that he can join the Vedanta Resources Plc as its non-working Chairman! He should derive his inspiration from that ‘exemplary’ civil servant Naresh Chandra who is one of the Directors of Vedanta Resources Plc.