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Thoothukudi Fallout

File Picture Courtesy : Live mint
File Picture Courtesy: Live Mint

 

Recently, more than 10 people died in a brutal police action in Thoothukudi, a port city in Tamil Nadu. As Vedanta-Sterlite Copper Plant was ignoring the mounting environmental concerns in the historical city, people staged intense protests against the expansion where the state police fired indiscriminately. Amidst intensified and simmering tension, the Madras High Court stayed the expansion. The Union Home Ministry has taken cognisance of the situation and sought a report on the incident and the prevailing situation from the Tamil Nadu Government. It is reported that the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board ordered the closure of the factory. Ironically, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu is defending the police action! It is reported that a concerted demonstration erupted in Britain to delist Vedanta Resources from the London Stock Exchange.
The entire episode shows that how the governments are blatantly pursuing the neo-liberal agenda in India while undermining the citizens’ rights? There is no consultation with the community but the companies claim comprehensive consultations with the stakeholders like the communities. Inspired by dharma of the Ease of Doing Business, the governments are increasingly collaborating with the tainted companies and playing the role of enablers to exploit the natural resources or lands in name of development.

Tamil Nadu is an industrialized state in India. After 2005, Tamil Nadu was among India’s fastest-growing states, with growth being driven mainly by services. A huge number of companies operate from Tamil Nadu ranging from manufacturing and mining to ITes. The economy is slowly picking up which is evident from the increase in GSDP growth rate in real terms, from 4.85% in 2012-2013 to 8.03% in 2017-2018 despite the temporary setbacks in between, according to the government report.

As the AIDMK Government is celebrating this year as ‘Tamil Nadu Golden Jubilee Year’ to commemorate the 50th year of the State’s rechristening as ‘Tamil Nadu’ on 14th January, 1969, such brutal assault shows that the Government is celebrating and commemorating such events for its own benefits.

The two political parties namely the DMK and the AIDMK wrestle to grab the power in the state. Both political parties adopted the populist measures to tackle the poverty and several times lauded their efforts to deal with the hardships. Since 1994, the state has seen a steady decline in poverty, with the result that today, Tamil Nadu has lower levels of poverty than most other states in the country, as stated by World Bank.

India States Briefs – Tamil Nadu, World Bank

 

Vedanta Resources:

Vedanta Resources is not new to the controversies. It is a London Stock Exchange listed, globally diversified natural resources Company with interests in Zinc, Lead, Silver, Copper, Iron Ore, Aluminium, Power and Oil & Gas as the Vedanta Resources’ Sustainability Report 2016-17 stated. Anil Agarwal is Chairman and Founder of Vedanta Resources.

Source: Sustainable Development Report 2016-17, Vedanta Resources 

As the company claims, “We are committed to empower local communities in our areas of operations”. According to the company, all operational sites are now ISO 14001 certified. ISO 14001 is an international standard related to an effective environmental management. Vedanta Resources articulated in the Sustainable Development Report 2016-17 that how the company embedded the sustainable development framework in its operations.

Sustainable Development Journey

Source: Sustainable Development Report 2016-17, Vedanta Resources

According to the Sustainable Development Report 2016-17, “Our Cultural Heritage Land Acquisition and Resettlement Standards include consideration of Indigenous People, and have been developed to reflect relevant ICMM guidance (including ICMM Guidance Document: ‘Indigenous Peoples and Mining’) and IFC Performance Standards. We established a Guidance Note addressing Indigenous People/Vulnerable Tribal Groups to help operations understand these standards.” The report further added, “The core aim of the standard is to enable our teams to engage, negotiate, and partner with IPs/VTGs to avert negative impacts and risks for all stakeholders while establishing new projects. The standard helps to identify the unique characteristics and expectations of each group in the neighbourhood resulting in the creation of economic and social development opportunities.”

Vedanta instituted the “Neighbourhood Dialogue” near its projects. The Company claims, “Our approach towards building a neighbourhood dialogue is based on disclosure of relevant project information, consultation and participation of all affected communities, arriving at mutually acceptable solutions, and addressing material concern to stakeholders, including affected communities.” But, the recent discontent in the Tuticorin Plant is defying such lofty claims.

The glossy sustainability reports are spinning a false narrative that consultation and participation of affected communities have taken into the consideration.  But, the evidence shows that it’s mere claim and no one is bothered about the common people.

The mounting pressures on the government to create more jobs and intensify business activities are worsening the condition.  As we all know that the natural resources and lands are depleting and shrinking very fast. Ensuring and protecting such resources from the fraudulent and scrupulous companies is a daunting task in India as the nexus of the government and corporations are surfaced.

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