Prafulla Samantara, a petitioner against Vendanta group, on Tuesday condemned the company for allegedly trying to mislead the public and influence the Supreme Court by organising “fake and engineered protests” in Odisha.
Vedanta Aluminium Limited, a subsidiary of the London Stock Exchange listed multi-billion dollar Vedanta Resources group, had told the Odisha government on September 6 that it wanted to temporarily shut down its alumina refinery in Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district, more than 500 km southwest of Bhubaneswar, within three months due to lack of bauxite.
Following the move by the company, Vedanta staff and some local people held a rally in the district headquarter Bhabanipatna and sent a memorandum to the state government demanding arrangement of bauxite for the company.
“The pro-Vedanta rally in Kalahandi is clearly intended to influence the proceedings of the Supreme Court on Niyamgiri issue that is being fought by state owned Odisha Mining Corporation for Vedanta. This should be taken as a case of interference with the proceedings of a court,” Samantara, convenor of voluntary group Lok Shakti Abhiyan, told reporters in Bhubaneshwar, adding that the company had started a calculated media campaign before sending the shutdown notice to the state government.
Samantara asked the state government to stop playing to “Vedanta tunes”, scrap the alumina plant and declare Niyamgiri a National Biodiversity Heritage Site.
VAL has not been able to get bauxite from Niyamgiri hill — home to nearly 10,000 endangered Dangria Kond tribals — adjoining the refinery despite an MoU with the state government in 2004.
Since starting operations in 2007, the refinery was sourcing bauxite from Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Gujarat. “We ran the plant at less than 60% of capacity. Initially, the loss was around Rs. 2 crore per day, but now it has risen to Rs. 4 crore a day, taking the accumulated loss so far to Rs. 3,000 crore,” Mukesh Kumar, president and chief operating officer of VAL, had said after sending the shutdown letter to the state government.