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India: Corporate Crimes and Environmental plunder

Press Release by Champa – the Amiya and B.G.Rao Foundation

by Champa – the Amiya and B.G.Rao Foundation, 25 December 2009

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PRESS RELEASE

The Madhu Koda [1] episode is just the tip of an iceberg. In Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa private mining companies enjoy vast illegal mining empires – and the corporate loot of resources is closely linked to political power. Meanwhile, resistance by Adivasi people – at Kalinganagar, Niyamgiri and Narayanpatna – has been met with savage repression and police firings. This offensive has intensified with the ongoing Central Government military offensive, ostensibly aimed at ‘Maoists’, but in fact clearing the way for mining operations

At a meeting held on 17 December, 2009 at the Indian Law Institute, organized by Champa – the Amiya and B.G.Rao Foundation, Samarendra Das,activist, film-maker and researcher, laid bare the destruction of the adivasi communities livelihood as well as environment as a result of unscrupulous plunder by the mining companies in collusion with Central and State Governments.

The meeting began with the screening of “Wira Pdika” (Earthworm and Company-man) about the struggle of the Adivasi Dongria Kondh and Majhi Kondh communities against eviction to pave the way for British MNC Vedanta’s mining operations.

The film screening was followed by a talk by Mr. Das on Mining Policy and corporate plunder. The talk was chaired by Professor Amit Bhaduri.

Samendra Das traced the shifts in India’s mining policies. The New Mineral Policy (NMP) 1993, he said, began paving the way for increased control of private corporations over India’s mineral resources. The latest NMP 2008 has opened up the mining sector completely – allowing for 100% FDI in mining. Das pointed out that such a policy flew in the face of government claims of ‘development’ – since the mineral resources are looted by private corporations while the lives and livelihoods of Adivasi people are devastated. He also presented documentary evidence of the ‘hijack of people’s struggles by a corporate cartel’ of the plundering corporations, international fund banks and some NGOs; whereby the latter are paid huge amounts to subvert anti-mining movements.

He showed reports brought out by consultants like Pricewaterhouse Coopers anticipating people’s resistance to mining landgrab, that proposed ‘corporate partnerships’ to hijack movements with propaganda about Corporate Social Responsibility. For instance, he emphasized that ‘International Watch’ received Rs.22 crore to create a ‘pro-Posco’ mood in the face of the people’s movement against the Korean steel company Posco’s land grab in Jagat singhpur, Orissa. He also showed how Action Aid was part of a corporate partnership – ‘Partners in Change’ funded by Ford Foundation (which in turn is headed by someone who used to head the Aluminium Corporation of America (ALCOA)) – claiming to stand for ‘pro-poor corporate responsibility’. While the mining companies indulge in illegal mining, land grab and devastation of livelihood and environment, such corporate cartels attempt to mask the mining companies’ role with talk of ‘CSR’.

In the case of Vedanta’s landgrab in the Niyamgiri hills he showed how a similar role had been played by corporate partnerships like Business Partners for Development. The latter, funded by the World Bank and DFID has changed its name to Building Partnerships for Development, after its infamous role in Colombia and Orissa too, was exposed.

He showed how in platforms like the Indo-US Business Forum, leading mining CEOs like Guy Elliot advise Indian planners and leaders to change India’s “mining code” in order to open it up. He emphasized that mining policy cannot be seen only as a “dig and sell” activity, since its externality costs are extremely high, and so are its long term costs in terms of impact on future generations, land and livelihood. Home Minister P Chidambaram has been on the Board of Directors of Vedanta, and as a UPA Minister, he is pushing such pro-corporate policies, including the latest war on people.

Chairing the meeting, Prof. Amit Bhaduri said that the corporate grab of land and resources in the poorest districts in the country represented “internal colonization”.

At the end, the consensus of the meeting was the mining resources of the country should be utilized to subserve the internal and local needs of the people, rather than allowing the corporations to grab the said resources for their profit-making at the expense of people’s interests.

N.D. Pancholi

Convenor,

Champa – the Amiya and B.G.Rao Foundation

P.S.

PS: The footnote in the above release was added by sacw.net for readers who dont know about the Madhu Koda episode

Footnotes

[1Madhu Koda the former chief minister of the state of Jharkhand in India, has been arrested on charges of being the kingpin in a multi million dollar mine lease scandal. Mining rights in the mineral-rich Jharkhand were granted by the Koda government to powerful private companies in exchange for massive bribes.