By Dr. Anjali Mohan Rao
Panaji, Aug 29: More than 70 protesters from Foil Vedanta, South Asia Solidarity Group, Save Goa Campaign and other originations crowded the entrance to controversial FTSE 100 mining company Vedanta Resources’ London AGM on August 28 in an attempt to disrupt the meeting. In Goa and Odisha in India, and Chingola in Zambia where Vedanta operates, parallel demonstrations involving thousands of people affected by the company’s activities took place on 27th & 28 August respectively.
In Goa itself thousands of villagers took to the streets on Monday, August 27 demanding an end to operations at Sesa Goa’s Amona pig iron plant which swamped a 1.5km area with black powder from the plant just last weekend. Sesa Goa is also accused of large scale fraud in Mining operations in Goa. In addition to large scale fraud and illegal mining Vedanta was held responsible for pit wall collapse which drowned a village in toxic mine waste last year. As environmental experts have noted if such activities do not stop Goa may well lose its Heritage status.
Vedanta have been named the ‘world’s most hated company’ by the Independent newspaper for their long list of environmental and human rights crimes for which they are being opposed all over the world. Most famously Vedanta’s plan to mine a mountain sacred to the Dongria Kondh tribe in Orissa, India, has led to mass protests and the Bank of England among others pulling out investments.
Vedanta’s continued donations to India’s two main political parties, the ruling Congress and the right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP. Under the name Anil Agarwal foundation, it also supports projects such the Krishna Avanti Primary school in London partly funded by the I- foundation which has close links to the Hindu supremacist groups.
Protestors at the Lincoln Centre, London where the AGM was held carried placards depicting shocking pictures of Vedanta’s atrocities including the 100 dead at the Korba chimney collapse in 2009. They shouted slogans calling for the arrest of Vedanta chief Anil Agarwal for his major involvement in one of the biggest coal corruption scandal ” Coalgate”, currently rocking India and played noisy drums. Despite these scandals Agarwal gave himself a 16% pay rise this year.
Addressing the protestors in London Samarendra Das from Foil Vedanta said, “Vedanta symbolises the new face of India Incorporated where more than 80% of people do not have enough to live on where as Bollygarchs like Anil Agarwal are allowed a free loot of its resources for their own personal wealth. With popular resistance against Vedanta erupting in Goa, and Odisha and scandals in the Indian parliament over the CAG report, the world is seeing their true colours.”
Two activists dressed as Vedanta executives spilled litres of red paint over a woman covered with a white sheet on the steps of the AGM. After a shortwhile, Anil Agarwal and Vedanta executives arrived in a blacked out car and were unable to enter the AGM. The symbolic action referred to the hundreds who have died either working at or opposing Vedanta’s factories and mines. A 30 foot long banner proclaimed ‘Vedanta: Olympic Champion of Murder, Pollution and Corruption’.
A group from the Save Goa Campaign carried banners showing toxic mine waste floods caused by Vedanta subsidiary Sesa Goa. They called for the British Government to help stop illegal mining by Vedanta and others, as recommended by the Early Day Motion scheduled by John McDonnell MP who also attended the demo.
Internationally acclaimed Goan Environmental activist Claude Alvares who attended the demostration in Goa said, “Vedanta is committed to turning Goa into a graveyard in which it will bury not just the Goans but their environment as well. Almost every mining lease Vedanta is operating violates some environment or mining law, from mining in excess of environment limits to overloading its trucks to distress ordinary folk on Goa’s roads in the mining belt. The company violates its environment clearance conditions with impunity.”
“Never have I seen a company so obsessed with profits that it cannot see the beauty of the place it has settled on to destroy. At the moment, the company has in fact speeded up its mineral extraction because it fears the climate in Goa may turn against mining forever or it may face as grave a setback as its mines in Bellary, Karnataka. Goa government must takeover Vedanta’s mines in retaliation for the environmental havoc this company’s operations have caused. Almost every mining lease Vedanta is operating violates some environment or mining law, from mining in excess of environment limits to overloading its trucks to distress ordinary folk on Goa’s roads in the mining belt. The company violates its environment clearance conditions with impunity. At the helm in Goa is a BJP government which has acknowledged that its party got funding fromVedanta in excess of Rs.400 crores. What chance do those without cash (mother nature included) have in the circumstances?” “
In Bhawanipatna and Lanjigarh in Odisha hundreds of Dongria Kondh tribals whose livelihood is threatened by Vedanta’s plan to mine their sacred mountain rallied alongside farmers and villagers. They called for the final closure of the Lanjigarh alumina refinery at the foot of the threatened Niyamgiri hills after seven years battle to stop the mine. Last week the company admitted it would have to temporarily close the plant due to lack of local bauxite which has incurred huge annual losses for Vedanta Aluminium.