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Vedanta gets Amnesty rap

Nirmalya Behera  |  Bhubaneswar 

The human rights group, Amnesty International, has accused the London-stock-exchange-listed mines and metals major, Vedanta Resources Plc, of glossing over criticisms of its poor human rights record at Lanjigarh in Odisha’s Kalahandi district, where it has set up and is operating a one-million-tonne alumina refinery.

Stating that the company has put forward its own account of operations in the report titled ‘The Lanjigarh Development Story: Vedanta’s Perspective’, the London-based human rights watchdog termed it “meaningless and hollow”.

“The report is an attempt to calm investor fears over its controversial operation in India as it seeks to expand them,” Amnesty said in its website.

In its counter report, “Vedanta’s Perspective Uncovered: Policies Cannot Mask Practices”, Amnesty has incriminated the company of ignoring the reality of the impact on the human rights of local communities in the state.

Some of those opposed to the company’s activities have been the subject of fabricated charges, which has the effect of intimidating them from exercising their right to protest peacefully. There is sufficient evidence, uncovered during an ongoing inquiry by India’s National Human Rights Commission, that the police, in both the framing of false charges and the suppression of dissent, have colluded to promote the interests of the company, the report said.

When contacted, a company spokesperson said: “Though Amnesty is critical on certain issues, they have given some backhanded compliments to the company for improving its human rights records.”

Besides, Amnesty has observed that in response to the criticism of Vendata’s operations in Oridsha and elsewhere, the company has taken a number of measures like appointing a chief sustainability officer, establishing a new sustainability framework and developing an exclusive human rights commitment as part of its code of business conduct.

On the negative side, Polly Truscott, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific programme stated in its website, “Our new briefing exposes the glaring gap between the company’s assertions and the reality on the ground”.

Amnesty International has reiterated its call for suspending the mine plans of the company and establish a process to seek the free, prior and informed consent of the Dongria Kondh community, the indigenous tribal group at the Niyamgiri hill, on the mine plans according to international human rights standards.

On reports that Vedanta may have to temporarily shut its Lanjigarh refinery for want of adequate bauxite supply from other sources, Truscott said, “This may be a short-term problem. What is really at stake here is Vedanta’s human rights record”.

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First Published: Thu, August 30 2012. 00:08 IST