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).
1st August 2013. Foil Vedanta’s report with pictures:
Today protesters from Foil Vedanta and other organizations held a loud carnival demonstration at the AGM of controversial FTSE 100 mining company Vedanta at the Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square London. A parallel demo was held in Johannesburg. Yesterday in Delhi almost a hundred people braved rains to raise their protest at Odisha Bhawan. Meanwhile, the majority of tribal village meetings given legal power by the Supreme Court of India have unanimously voted against Vedanta’s flagship Niyamgiri mine.
Vedanta’s London AGM was again disrupted today by protesters from Foil Vedanta and other organisations who raised a number of human rights concerns. Chanting and singing was continuous throughout the two hour protest and could be heard inside the AGM. Protesters held placards painted with defiant anti-company quotes from the Dongria Kond tribe in Odisha, India, where the company has been trying to mine illegally for ten years, and has now been stopped. Another group performed street theatre holding a giant inflatable monster with Vedanta Resources painted on it, and snake like heads bearing the names of Vedanta’s subsidiaries. Some Sri Lankan protesters played Parai drums (a Tamil drum of revolution) outside the Mayfair venue. Vedanta subsidiary Cairn India is drilling in the fragile Mannar basin off Sri Lanka. At the peak of the protests a sit in was staged as the Vedanta monster was used to block the road.
Join us for our major annual demonstration at Vedanta’s AGM.
We will bring the defiant energy of the Dongria Kond tribe to London, as they fight the final stages of their 10 years battle for survival against Vedanta’s planned mega mine.
Parallel demonstrations are already planned in Odisha and Delhi in India on 31st August.
Bring drums, placards, banners and lots of energy!
Please see below for more information and background.
18th June, 2013. This report comes direct from members of the Foil Vedanta team on the ground in Niyamgiri:
Vedanta Raj- Age of New License Raj and Draconian Policing
On 7th June 2013, a four member team visited the Vedanta re-settlement colony in Lanjigarh, known as Vedanta Nagar, to interview a few people people settled there. As soon as we entered the colony, Vedanta’s Public Relations Officer – Mr. Siddharth Behera, and the Associate officer in charge of the colony – Mr Srikant Bohidar appeared riding a motorcycle, and started questioning us about what we were doing there and who we were. One of our team was a journalist with a press card, when he showed this one of the officers looked particularly worried. He started calling up higher level officials.
On Monday 5th November a fly ash pipe burst, pouring toxic ash over more than 15 acres of farm land at Vedanta Aluminium’s Jharsuguda aluminium complex in Odisha. In response women and local farmers from Kurebaga Panchayat gathered outside the gates of the factory demanding compensation for the land that had been destroyed. 38 were later arrested after the police were called by the company and evicted them from the spot. Many of those affected are displaced people moved from their farms and villages by the giant factory complex which is estimated to have displaced 10,000 people without compensation or rehabilitation.
Rather than apologising to villagers, Vedanta released a statement claiming that local ‘scrap mafia’s’ had repeatedly stolen the pipe, and that just the day before some ‘miscreants’ had been found trying to cut it. As a result Vedanta said they had increased their ‘security forces’ to guard the pipe. Vedanta employ an estimated 100 private security guards around the factory and surrounding displaced villages, who play a role in preventing dissent amongst local people and workers as well as ‘protecting’ the factory.
This is only the latest in a series of pollution incidents at the plant. In August this year fly ash was found dumped in reserve (protected) forest. In June fly ash rained down on local people causing asthma attacks and burning sensation in the eyes. In response a group of locals demanded justice by blocking the local highway. In June 2009 another major fly ash incident affected the whole township of Jharsuguda. Continue reading