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Anti - Vedanta Activists Loosing Ground in Lanjigarh
"There have been many attempts by the Dongria NGOs and groups, to mobilize Dongria tribal community against Vedanta Group for mining from Niyamgiri Hill. But as Dongria Kondh community now realises the reality, they do not come into their trap rather have been working very closely with Vedanta Group."
Pavan Kaushik : May 24, 2009
The sustained efforts of Vedanta have started giving results. The change has begun and is to be seen to be believed. Support of people including Dongria Kondhs is increasing every day. Launching of Mid-Day meal programme in Lanjigarh for over 17,000 under-privileged children , training of 120 women from Dongria Kondh community in leaf-place making, cash crop like Strawberry cultivation to enhance the income of the farmers, Mobile Health Units to cater to the health requirements of villagers - specially tribals - at their door step, 70 child care centres, adoption of 800 Anganwadi Centres benefiting thousands of women and 31,500 under-privileged children have brought Vedanta Group much closer to villagers, particularly the tribals who were being mislead by social activists and distant NGOs.
Tudu Majhi, a villager of Khemptipadar Village of Lanjigarh says, ‘our life is changed because of Vedanta Aluminium. Today Mobile Health Units of Vedanta look after our health and we need not go to far off hospitals for small treatments.’ Kataru Majhi is happy because Vedanta Group Company helped him in managing agriculture more effectively with quality seeds and also fertilizers and pesticides. Today his income has increased multi-fold.
When a team of 8 from Dongria Kondh community from Patsali, Guma, Luma and Dangamati village visited Panchapatmali bauxite mining site, Asia’s largest bauxite reserve, in order to see for themselves the reality of bauxite mining, one of the members Taalu Saikoka - while interacting with other tribal members - reacted, ‘there is NO environment damage, NO damage to tribals culture, NO scarcity of water, then why these NGOs are misleading tribal people? Maandi Sikoka saw forest cover increased due to plantation by mining company.
Drika Kadraka said, ‘we won’t allow NGOs to misguide us further. Now we have seen the reality and will let our people (Dongria Kondhs) know about this. If mining can change their lives, it would change our lives too. It was foolish to oppose the mining at Niyamgiri by Vedanta Aluminium believing few selfish people who are into useless propaganda.’
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Only Vedanta Group came forward during the recent epidemic in Lanjigarh of Kalahandi and provided instant medical care to people suffering from Diarrhea and Cholera. Most of these people belonged to Dongria Kondhs in Kurli Gram Panchayat in Bissamkatak Block of Rayagada District. Dongria Kondh community is now realising what is good for them and what would be ultimately helping their children and their community.
There have been many attempts by the Dongria NGOs and groups, to mobilize Dongria tribal community against Vedanta Group for mining from Niyamgiri Hill. But as Dongria Kondh community now realises the reality, they do not come into their trap rather have been working very closely with Vedanta Group.
Few vested interest groups planned a rally on May 11, 2009 but could muster support of not even 10 people from Dongria Kondhs in less than 50 people gathered. Those 10 also did not stick to them. The rally was cancelled. On May 14, 2009 these activists again tried to take out another rally, went door to door to muster support but were highly disappointed.
Vedanta Group has very clear focus relating to community development and they are going ahead with it. Every day people are joining hands and the development has started showing tangible results. “We know now these NGOs are outsiders and outsiders should not be allowed to unnecessarily interfere in our development”, voiced a Dongria Kondh who was happy his wife getting plate making training.
It is true, large Corporates have always been instrumental in bringing changes in the lives of people, especially those, who have not seen how the world has grown. Along with Corporates, Governments and NGOs and activists supporting developments have also joined hands to bring desired results. It is important for every one to come together to ensure growth and development and be part of the positive change rather than opposing developmental activities.
Dongria Kondhs now understand the difference between meaningful development that would bring enormous change in their lives and ensure a bright future for their offspring.
Author is the Corporate Communication Head of Vedanta Resources Plc., Udaypur, Rajasthan.