2nd September 2013. On the same day that the last of twelve villages voted Vedanta out of Niyamgiri for good, Vedanta announced a new major Corporate Social Responsibility and PR campaign to save its tattered reputation. The campaign, in partnership with the Vedanta funded station NDTV, entitled ‘Our Girls, Our Pride‘, will focus on nutrition, education, health, foeticide and infanticide affecting girl children in India. Miss World 2000, Bollywood superstar and UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador for child rights – Priyanka Chopra, will be the face of the campaign. The idea that Vedanta could be an ambassador for the well being of India’s poorest girl children is beyond farcical. Vedanta’s mining and processing operations have displaced, poisoned and polluted thousands of families. Their low pay, anti-union activities and worker’s deaths have deprived hundreds of young girls of their parents and plunged their families into poverty.
Vedanta used the launch of the Our Girls Our Pride programme to promote another PR campaign which they have run since 2008 to make India ‘a child malnourished free nation’. To achieve this goal they promote their take-over of 14,000 Anganwadi (child day care) centres – as part of a mass privatisation programme. This privatisation has been opposed by Anganwadi workers who claim centres are being shut down and jobs lost as a result. Karnataka Anganwadi teachers held a protest in August which demanded an end to Vedanta’s privatisation or a state wide strike would be held.
Vedanta also emphasised their widespread promotion of Self Help Groups which they claim have ‘transformed 14,900 women into Rural Entrepreneurs’, plus health camps, a Heart Hospital in Rajasthan and a 350 bed Cancer Hospital in Raipur. These health centres will be necessary for those living near or working in Vedanta’s plants which have repeatedly polluted and poisoned their locality. Just this year Vedanta’s Sterlite copper smelting subsidiary in Tamil Nadu released toxic gases (thought to be largely sulphur dioxide) which choked thousands of local inhabitants leading to ongoing health impacts and one death. Self Help Groups on the other hand have been effective in reducing mass dissent against Vedanta’s operations, as women receiving money as part of the scheme sometimes feel unable to criticise the company despite the obvious health impacts on their children and themselves. Not in every case however, as even Vedanta’s CSR darling village of Phuldumer on the Niyamgiri mountain adamantly opposed their proposed mine despite the Self Help Groups they had set up there. This article looks at a few specific cases in which young girls have suffered as a result of Vedanta’s activities and aims to demonstrate the total incompatibility of Vedanta’s style of operation with the well being of communities and their girls.
Foil Vedanta is coordinating a mass letter to Priyanka Chopra signed by women’s orgamisations urging her to pull out of the campaign and avoid helping to clean Vedanta’s rightly sullied reputation.
Please sign a public petition asking NDTV to pull out their support for the campaign here, and a petition asking Priyanka Chopra to pull out here, or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org if your organisation wishes to be a signatory to the letter (which can be found at the end of this post).