Posts filed under ‘Vedanta’

Vedanta University: Lanjigarh versus Puri

Following letter was sent to westernodisha@googlegroups.com:

Dear All,

When an incredible and elegant solution stares you in your face, you have to be completely dysfunctional and utterly intellectually challenged not to take it. Yet this is the current situation about location of Vedanta University. Locating the university in the vicinity of Lanjigarh solves several problems at one stroke, yet sixty milers want to locate it near Puri. Incredible.

It will be good,very good, for the entire KBK region,particularly for the large number of Adivashis will sacrifice not only their home and hearth, but their way of life. They being largely illiterate and possessing no marketable skills, they will be disoriented and will have insurmountable difficulties to carve out a new life with the  few rupees they will get in exchange for their habitat. With an institution of the size proposed, there will be good job opportunities. Hopefully the institution will spawn a variety of ancillary industries, and other institutions which can  give them good chance of a good alternate livelihood.

KBK has been a sink hole where various large scale attempts that have been made to rehabilitate into a healthy society have just been failures and the vast amount of money simply disappears. Vedant University will be strong and reliable anchor  in the community which will automatically attract various infrastructures which the entire region so desperately needs. A critical mass of literate and sophisticated population will develop because of adjacent Central University in Koraput, and thus a new nucleus of educational excellence will be generated. And some day, the kids of those displaced Adivashis may be managers of Vedanta and other institutions. And civil servants who find all kinds of excuses not to be located,they  will eagerly compete to be there.

Vedanta will benefit tremendously because its image of a ruthless destroyer of habitat of disadvantaged populace and mindless destroyer of environment; that image will change into a benevolent philanthropist and builder of healthy society. Mind you, it still has to be a good caretaker of the environment and has to actively engage to protect the sensitive ecology of the region. My feeling is that the local populace will actively cooperate with Vedanta to see that Vedanta becomes a successful profitable venture at the same time jointly engage in protecting the ecology.

The unnecessary confrontation between Vedanta on one side and environmentalists and displaced Adivashis can be avoided. Vedanta will emerge as a hero, and can serve as a role model for other mining enterprises. At the same time it will avoid confrontation with Puri-ites regarding land accumulation for building the university. 

It will also be great for Orissa government. Many from Koshala or Western Orissa including me are very critical of Orissa government for over concentrating practically most human resource development activities in the vicinity of Bhubaneswar leaving rest of Orissa largely untouched. Location of Vedanta University in Kalahandi will be first good step to address the inequity, and hopefully this will be followed by similar gestures throughout Orissa away from the sixty mile strip. Location of Vedanta University will cost the government nothing. Cash strapped Orissa government has not been able to manage adequately the institutions of higher learning. Now it can focus in strengthening the existing ones. And the long neglected huge population of Adivashis,who are literally dying because the government has put their horrendous problems under the carpet, will have some ray of hope of good future.

Some argue that the decision of location of Vedanta university in Puri was the decision of Vedanta not Orissa government. But is the Orissa government is so weak that major educational development is surrendered to a industrial house ? With such a majority in the Orissa assembly, one would think that the government is full control of what happens in the state.

Therefore only conclusion one can derive from such decision is that Navin’s government is simply a regionalistic one dominated by self-centered   “academics” and “intelligentsia” with no vision of overall development of Orissa; and this really the way they want. These self centered folks are not interested in reduction of inter-regional disparity, or are interested in rational solutions of the problems. They are simply engaged in rationalisation of the decisions which irrational in essence.

So do you think that wisdom will prevail, and Vedanta University will be located in Kalahandi after all  ? Do not hold your breath. The change of status of dysfunctional to functional is not in the cards.

Regards

Professor Arjun Purohit,Kingston, Ontario, Canada

E-mail:apurohit1934@gmail.com

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May 4, 2010 at 11:19 pm 2 comments

The Orissa state pollution control board clears Vedanta refinery at Lanjigarh

Following is a report from http://economictimes.indiatimes.com:

BHUBANESWAR: The Orissa state pollution control board has given a clean chit to Vedanta’s alumina refinery in the state’s Kalahandi district after conducting checks in the areas near the plant, an official said on Thursday.

 

The board had launched a probe after series of allegations made by some individuals and organisations in January this year, claiming at least 100 people died of tuberculosis over the past few years by the pollution caused by the plant at Lanjigarh, some 500 km from here.

A delegation led by local tribal leader Sridhar Pesnia in January submitted a memorandum to the state government, alleging the deaths of cattle and birds in the area.

A team of scientists from the board made an on-the-spot enquiry last month and collected data and samples from different sources, including data from local health department, a senior official of the board said.

“As per the report the scientists submitted, only one death has occurred – in 2006 – due to tuberculosis in the periphery area of the refinery between 2002 and 2010,” he said.

The team analysed the water samples from the river, streams and tubewell from various locations around the plant and found that the pollution in surrounding surface and ground water remained within acceptable limits.

April 22, 2010 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment

Vedanta University project gets environmental clearance from union ministry of environment and forests (MOEF)

Following is a report by IANS published in http://in.news.yahoo.com:

Bhubaneswar, April 17 (IANS) The Rs.150 billion Vedanta University project in Orissa by the Anil Agarwal foundation has got environmental and coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearances from the central government, a project spokesman said Saturday.

‘The union ministry of environment and forests (MOEF) has granted the environment and CRZ clearances to the Vedanta University project,’ Sasanka Patnaik told IANS.

‘We received the letter from the ministry today (Saturday),’ he said.

The Anil Agarwal foundation is promoted by NRI billionaire and chairman of Britain’s Vedanta Resources Anil Agarwal.

It has proposed to set up a multi-disciplinary Vedanta University over 6,000 acres of land near the Konark-Puri marine drive, some 60 km from here.

This not-for-profit university, being built on a global scale, has been envisaged as one-of-its-kind institution for quality higher education and cutting-edge research facility in 95 academic disciplines for 100,000 students.

April 17, 2010 at 4:57 pm Leave a comment

Mining scam of Orissa: Centre says CBI ready to probe

Following report is from The Pioneer:

The Centre on Thursday informed the Rajya Sabha that the Odisha Government was opposed to the CBI inquiry into the alleged mining scam. Giving reply to a question by MP Rudra Naryan Pany in the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State Prithviraj Chavan on behalf of the Prime Minister said, “The State Government has opposed CBI inquiry into the alleged illegal mining on the grounds that the allegation is being inquired into by the State Vigilance Department and follow up action has been taken.”

He further said that CBI has filed the reply affidavits in the court that the CBI is ready to take up the investigation if ordered by the court to do so. “The matter is sub-judice now,” he maintained.

Chavan further informed that five public interest litigations have been filed in the High Court at Cuttack seeing CBI investigation into the allegations.

He further acknowledged the fact that references from the Ministry of Mines and the Ministry of Home Affairs were received forwarding therewith requests from several persons for independent investigations into the alleged mining scam.

The BJP and Congress in Odisha have alleged that there has been rampant looting of rich minerals and the corruption could touch to a whooping rupees three lakh crore. Both the parties have alleged that the State Government was apprehensive of handing over the case to the CBI fearing that its misdeed would be exposed.

April 17, 2010 at 7:33 am Leave a comment

Blatant efforts to wage a proxy war: An article on Dantewada massacre and Maoists by M G Devasahayam

Following is an Op-Ed from http://expressbuzz.com by M G Devasahayam:

The Dantewada massacre took the lives of 76 CRPF jawans and caused a huge setback to the Union home ministry’s self-proclaimed ‘war on tribal terror’. It also portends a debilitating civil war unless humane governance replaces the gun-wielding ‘area-domination’ mindset in the heartland.

Instead all we get is sound-bytes. Union home minister P Chidambaram says something must have gone “drastically wrong” and orders an inquiry. Before finding out what went wrong, he discreetly suggests the use of air power against the Maoists: “At present there is no mandate to use the Air Force or any aircraft. But, if necessary, we will have to revisit the mandate to make some changes.” But the Air Force chief says: “Our training and weapons are meant for enemies across the border and to inflict maximum lethality. We cannot do this on our own people.” The army chief too says it is not wise to deploy the army against Naxalites. Defence minister A K Antony rules out direct deployment of armed forces.

Pushed on the back foot, Chidambaram offers to resign, which as expected is rejected by the prime minister. The BJP spokesperson says Chidambaram has been entrusted with the nation’s security and the responsibility is his. They want him to ‘face boldly the situation which has arisen.’ Their ally and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is more to the point. He wants Chidambaram to work more and speak less and control his ‘tone and tenor’.

As for Chidambaram, if the Maoists believe in shooting their way to revolutionary glory, he seems to believe he can rein them in by shooting off his mouth and jumping the gun with his thoughtless rhetoric. When he visited Lalgarh on April 4, everyone expected a series of confidence-boosting measures. But he tried to pass the buck to the state government. For good measure, he added that the Maoists were “cowards hiding in jungles” and fixed a three-year timeframe for their elimination. The Maoists hit back with a vengeance within 48 hours, butchering 76 security personnel. A rattled Chidambaram hurriedly termed the Maoists ‘savage’ as if the whole issued hinged on the adjectives he chose.

He did not even spare army chief general V K Singh who had said in good faith that the massacre was perhaps due to inadequate training and orientation. One need not be a top-notch commando, as the general was in his younger days, to say this. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of jungle warfare would say this a thousand times.

Why is the ‘calm, composed and competent’ darling of India’s neo-liberal media getting so worked up when it comes to tribals and unwashed Naxal-Maoists? Why does he brand well-meaning intellectuals and ideologues as Naxalite-extremists? Why have things gone so far as to make social activists lament that ‘in this country whoever tries to fight for justice, who talks about the poor, who brings up the issue of human rights, the government labels all of them as Naxal supporters’.

The answer lies in the mandate of Operation Green Hunt — to clear the tribal area of insurgent groups, hold the territory to ensure that Maoists can’t re-enter, and, finally, prepare the ground for development projects by ‘civilian agencies’. This is not a mandate for a counter-insurgency mission in the jungles where paramilitary forces are expected to ‘fight guerrillas like a guerrilla’ and not capture or hold territory.

Then for whom is this mandate intended? Obviously for the mining-MNCs who can build their industrial empires on this ‘captured’ territory. A look at the interests of the London-based MNC — Vedanta Resources plc, one of the world’s largest — gives enough clues. Of India’s total aluminium capacity of 1.3 million tonnes, Vedanta’s share is 3,85,000 tonnes. Its 5,00,000-tonne smelter in Orissa’s Jharsuguda is getting commissioned and the company will ultimately create 1.6 million tonnes of smelting capacity there, to be backed by a five million-tonne alumina refinery at Lanjigarh and a power complex of 3,750 MW. Its subsidiary, Balco’s capacity will be raised to one million tonnes.

In Lanjigarh alone Vedanta has access to bauxite deposits of 75 million tonnes and the government has promised an equally large deposit nearby. A five million tonne refinery is justified provided links to bauxite deposits lasting for about 50 years can be acquired. Orissa, where most of Vedanta’s aluminium action is to unfold, has an estimated 1.7 billion tonnes of the country’s total 3.3 billion tonnes of reserves. Vedanta says it has strong claims to free deposits because of the world’s single largest smelter it is committed to building at Jharsuguda.

If Vedanta has its way all this capacity will be on the ground by 2013. These reserves lie under the tribal forestland. It all depends whether Chidambaram can secure and deliver this land, a task he has taken upon himself and for the purpose declared a state-of-war.

The fact that Chidambaram had a close relationship with Vedanta raises serious concerns about the motive, agenda and mandate of this ‘war on tribal terror’. In 2003, he represented Sterlite Industries (a group company) before the Bombay High Court, when it faced charges of avoiding customs duties and tax evasion. Shortly afterwards, Chidambaram became a director on the board of Vedanta and only surrendered this job on May 22, 2004 — a day before taking up the position of finance minister at the Centre.

With an orchestrated neo-liberal media baying for ‘full-scale war’, area-domination operations have restarted. This time around it is the commandos of the Special Action Force who have been specially trained to fight Naxals. And the tribals are fleeing their villages. The question is: With such a blatant and high-level ‘conflict of interest’ does the home ministry have any moral authority to pursue this proxy-war?(The writer is a retired IAS officer)

April 16, 2010 at 4:01 pm 1 comment

Tribal faith vs Vedanta might in Kalahandi: A report from The Economic Times

Following is the complete report:

LANJIGARH/BHAWANIPATNA: Kalahandi has always captured the national imagination, but never for the right reasons. Recurring poverty deaths and reports about entire communities surviving on mango kernels defined this predominantly tribal district in southern Orissa for decades.

So when the London-listed, Indian-run miner Vedanta Plc announced plans in 2002 to set up a Rs 4,000-crore bauxite refinery and bauxite mining project in the district’s Niyamgiri hills, there was a feeling in New Delhi and Bhubaneswar that Kalahandi was finally climbing on to the development bandwagon.

“A big company was coming to Kalahandi… It would make the district into something like Kolkata or Mumbai. That’s how we felt then,” said local journalist Mahamad Ashlam.

Eight years on, Ashlam is a disappointed man. It is a feeling shared by Kalahandi’s elected representatives, people living near the refinery, the local middle class and the business community. The company, too, says it is disappointed because the refinery can break even only if the state government acts on its promise to let it mine in the bauxite-rich Niyam Dongar mountain.

Vedanta wants the flat-top mountain massif, the best-forested in the Niyamgiri hill range, but the local Dongria Kondh tribals say it is the abode of their god Niyam Raja. The surreal fight between the $12.3-billion mining firm and tribals facing extinction has already drawn parallels with James Cameron’s blockbuster film Avatar.

The David-versus-Goliath battle has drawn in a variety of actors—from tribals to environmentalists to politicians to non-government organisations. Even the Church of England waded into the controversy, selling its stake in the company last February to protest the company’s allegedly poor human rights record.

The battle is being fought against the backdrop of raging Maoist violence in tribal areas across several Indian states, which means a decision on whether to let the company mine the Niyam Dongar will not be an easy one.

The government, increasingly having to reckon with deep disenchantment felt by several tribal communities about the country’s industrialisation agenda, will be forced to confront the issue soon. The environment ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee, which advises the government on whether forestland should be diverted for non-forest use, will meet on April 16, after which it will submit its recommendations to the ministry to take the final call.

As D-day approaches, it is instructive to know just how Vedanta got here. To understand that question, and to make sense of the claims and counterclaims made by the company and the local community, ET traveled to Kalahandi last month.

April 13, 2010 at 6:36 pm Leave a comment

Oppn ups ante against Naveen on land for Vedanta University:Aftermath of Lokpal Justice Patra’s report

Following is a report from http://economictimes.indiatimes.com:

BHUBNESWAR: Vedanta Group chairman Anil Agarwal is having harrowing time. His dream project, Vedanta University at Puri, is not only facing stiff

opposition from the locals, but also now mired in legal controversy following Lok Pal’s order the government for a vigilance probe if handing over of the Puri Jagannath temple land to the Anil Agarwal Foundation was in breach of law and whether any official had a role in it.

The opposition Congress on Monday accused chief minister Naveen Patnaik of favouring Vedanta Universiy by violating law of the land by handing over temple land without following due procedure. The party also demanded resignation of the chief minister and face an “impartial probe” into the handing over Jagannath temple trust land to the London-based Vedanta Resources which is setting up a university project at Puri.

Addressing a press conference here, senior Congress leaders Narasingha Mishra, Nalini Mohanty, L.B. Mohapatra, Niranjan Patnaik and Sibananda Ray said although an Assembly committee constituted by former Speaker Kishore Mohanty had estimated the cost of 1200 acres land given to Vedanta at Rs 80 crore, the company paid a pittance i.e only Rs 8 crore.

“The handing over of the Jaganath temple trust land to Vedanta smacks of a huge scam. The state law department had given adverse note on the transfer of land. But the chief minister office overlooked this for some obvious reasons,” they said, adding an impartial probe could unearth the scam.

Acting on a petition filed by Dwaraka Mohan Mishra, a trade union leader, the Lok Pal last week had asked the state government to submit a report within three months after complying with the recommendations given by him in this case. The Lok Pal has also recommended a moratorium on the project till the Anil Agarwal Foundation complies with the legal provisions pointed out by the Ministry of Company Affairs for conversion of its status from private to public company.

Legally the state government could acquire land for the Anil Agarwal Foundation if the Foundation was a public company. This has been the consistent view of the Law Department of Government of Orissa. The then Orissa chief secretary approved the proposal for land acquisition in the instant case on the 12th December 2006. Accordingly lands belonging to private persons as well as to Shri Jagannath Temple were gradually acquired. But no previous sanction of the state government was taken before acquiring the land belonging to Shri Jagannath Temple though previous sanction was mandatory as per Section 16 of Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1954, which has embroiled Anil Agarwal Foundation into fresh trouble, officials said here.

Justice Patra has made it clear that if the Jaganath Temple Act and the Land Acquisition Act have not been complied with, no temple land could be handed over to the Foundation for the proposed University. Besides, he has recommended that the state government should work out a scheme for phase-wise delivery of land required for the university project. He also suggested that the vigilance cell should monitor the progress of the project and see that land is acquired and delivered in a phase-wise manner to the foundation so that it is not misused.

Justice Patra has asked the state government to ensure payment of adequate compensation by the Foundation to those affected by the project.

April 5, 2010 at 5:08 pm Leave a comment

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