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Vedanta versus the villagers: the fight for the sacred mountain

Yes it is right and I am agree with article published in The Guardian. But Question is that whether we do need "development" ornot? We the so-called educated person using laptop-computer and livinga "modern" life style all these things coming from mines. So thequestion should not ...beto not displacement rather how to better displacement andre-habitation. This is proved fact that migrant people are moredeveloped and well maintain life style comparison to non migrant. Andanother fact is that for me those who advocate to maintain and preserve the tribal culture are in fact against the development of tribal community. It not mean that I am against the way tribal people livingrather I am saying we need development and we have to let them development. Before doing this things at first we must take them in confidence. And make them sure that they are also part of development and profit. Your comments are always valuable for me so you are most welcome to debate and discussion in this topic.

Above are link for original article. Video is also available with this URL.
Now read here original article published as it is.
Vedanta versus the villagers: the fight for the sacred mountain
Tribes say plans by UK-listed mining firm Vedanta to mine on holy land will destroy their way of life
Gethin Chamberlain in Niyamgiri, India
guardian.co.uk, Monday 12 October 2009 20.14 BST
Article history
The ash spills out across the plain beneath the brooding bulk ofNiyamgiri mountain, swamping the trees that once grew here, formingdirty grey-brown drifts around the stems of the now-dead scrub.
Everyday there is more ash, pouring out of the alumina refinery that squatsamong the steep-sided, jungle-clad hills of western Orissa, India.The dust hangs in the air and clings to the landscape, settling on thehuts of the aboriginal Kondh tribes who call this place home, chokingthose who breathe it in.
Niyamgiri is as remote as any place inthe country: 600km from the state capital Bhubaneswar, accessible onlyby narrow, shattered roads pocked with deep holes, a world away fromthe economic powerhouse that is 21st-century India.
It is a placeof quiet beauty, of lush green paddy fields and huge mango trees, whereself-sufficient tribes still share the jungle with elephant, tiger andleopard. Yet this most unlikely place is now the frontline in a clashof civilisations that has pitched the indigenous population up against the corporate might of the British miningVedanta Resources, intent on dragging Niyamgiri into the modern world.
company
Itis the mineral wealth lying beneath the slopes of the mountain that hasdrawn Vedanta to Niyamgiri. It wants to turn the hillside into a giantbauxite mine to feed its refinery at the foot of the mountain.
The FTSE 100-listed company, which is run by the abrasive billionaire Anil Agarwal,is pressing ahead despite a desperate local rearguard action and aninternational outcry. Yesterday the British government turned on thecompany, issuing an unexpectedly damning assessment of its behaviour.
Vedantahopes the refinery will produce at least one million tonnes of aluminaa year. But the Kondh people – the Dongria, Kutia and Jharania – needthe bauxite too. It holds water remarkably well and helps feed theperennial streams on which they and the animals that live on themountain rely. Once the bauxite is gone, they fear, the streams willrun dry. And that will be the end of the Kondh.
Faced withferocious local opposition and an international campaign to stop thedevelopment, the company has returned time and again to the courts topush its plans through. In July, after numerous setbacks and rulingsagainst it, it was finally given permission by India's supreme court tostart mining.
It has wasted no time. Already, the skeleton of anenormous conveyor belt snakes out of the refinery and up to the foot ofthe mountain. Beyond it, an ugly scar of deep red earth runs up thehillside where hundreds of trees have been felled. Convoys of lorriestrundle along the narrow roads, churning them to mud.
There arestill legal challenges that the protesters can make and there is alsothe remote possibility that Vedanta shareholders, which include the Church of England, could bring pressure on the board to reverse its plans.
Althoughthe mining is yet to start in earnest, those who live in the hundredsof small villages that dot the slopes are in no doubt that the effectsof Vedanta's presence are already being felt. People and animals aredying, they say: the number of cases of tuberculosis have shot up.
BasantiMajhi sits with her hands folded in her lap, in a hut in the centre ofthe Kutia Kondh village of Rengopali, a couple of hundred metres fromwhere the company has sited the red mud pond that holds the wasteslurry from the refining process.
The 12-year-old startedcoughing hard last year; her family took her to a doctor, who confirmedTB. She complains of constant pains in her hips and joints and ofproblems from the dust that settles on the village. "The dust gets inmy eyes and it makes it hard to breathe," she says.
Salesmen
Heruncle, Lingaraj Majhi, says 12 people have died from TB in the villagein the last year, including a nine-year-old girl and two middle-agedwomen. He blames dust and smoke from the refinery and the presence ofthe red mud pond.
"We never used to have a problem but the casesstarted to appear in the last two years," he said. "During the summerthe dust comes in to our houses and gets everywhere, even into ourfood."
Outside the hut where Basanti sits is a plaque announcingthe inauguration of the electrification of the village on 25 June 2008in a scheme sponsored by Vedanta. Similiar signs adorn the walls ofbuildings all over the district, part of a concerted campaign by thecompany to win over the local population. It is hard to move withoutseeing the name Vedanta. But its critics are unconvinced, suggestingthat in many instances the company is simply piggy-backing on existingschemes.
No sooner had the electricity arrived than salesmenturned up, hoping to take advantage of the small group of people whohad received small packets of compensation for the loss of their land(many did not) to the red mud pond. Some of the villagers werepersuaded to blow their cash on television sets and satellite dishes.Some also bought motorbikes. Only later did they stop to consider howthey would pay for the electricity and the fuel to keep them going.With their land gone, few can afford it, and the dishes and bikes standidle.
"The company promised us a developed way of life withelectricity and such things, but now we have to pay for the electricityand we don't have any money," says Kuni Majhi, 40.
She used togrow crops on seven hectares of common land; when the pond was built,she lost the land. There was no compensation. Worse, many of the treesin the area were chopped down, so now she has to trek further to reachthe jungle to find firewood and to pick whatever produce she can find.
"Theway we were living, we were self-sufficient, and we had lived like thatfor generations," she says. "We could have lived like that for manymore generations too. Because of these people, we cannot. But we willstill fight to continue the old ways."
To the animist Kondhtribes, the mountain is more than the place where they live: it istheir god. It has sustained them for generations, providing everythingthey need to survive. All over its slopes there are small shrines wherethey place offerings to the mountain from whatever they have taken fromthe jungle. When the mining starts, they fear that the mountain will betaken away from them.
High up in the foothills, 13 families livein two rows of huts in the Dongria Kondh village of Devapada. The hutsline a central area in which an imposing wooden ceremonial arch marksthe place where animal sacrifices are carried out.
The village isonly accessible on foot, the path meandering through meadows in whichthe tribe is growing paddy. Every now and then there is a woodenwatchtower, in which they will sit at night to guard against the wildanimals which try to get at the crop, beating drums or waving lightedtorches to scare them off.
Now they also have to keep watch for the contractors who are trying to build roads up the mountainsides.
"Wedon't want a road. The company will come and kill us," says SitaramKulesika, 23. He is sitting on a charpoy under the shade of a tree,toying with a new Nokia mobile phone, a rare concession to the outsideworld. Kulesika is involved in the campaign to stop the mining: thephone, he says, is a necessary evil to keep in touch with his fellowactivists. "We stopped them coming up here. We went to explain to themthat if they came we would have to leave. We don't want to get intoclashes, so we are explaining peacefully."
Lost crops
Othershave been less peaceful: the Kondh men routinely carry axes which theyuse for hunting and to work in the forest, and the contractors are waryof them. A number of the company's vehicles have been attacked inrecent months.
Kulesika insists they just want to be left to geton with their lives. "We get everything we need from the mountainexcept salt and kerosene and we can barter for those," he says. Buteven now, that is becoming harder. "The smoke brings ash here and it issettling in the village. We can see the impact on the mango and thepineapple and the orange and banana. The flowers are falling early andthe fruit is falling and we are losing our crops and the quality of thefood is declining."
Down on the plain, the heavens have opened,huge drops of rain hammering into the muddy ruts which mark the roadaround the turn-off to the refinery. There are security guardseverywhere, patrolling in vehicles and on motorbikes. A barbed wirefence and a wide ditch protect the growing hill of ash: any attempt toapproach brings the guards out in force.
A short distance away, acrowd has gathered in the centre of the road. It is pouring with rainand they huddle under umbrellas to listen to the leaders of theanti-Vedanta campaign telling them that they can still stop the minefrom going ahead. There are a few communist party banners and a lot ofred bandanas tied around heads. A few men carry spears and bows andarrows; many more have brought their axes, which they wave in the airfrom time to time.
The police watch warily from behind abarricade, clutching bamboo shields and their long wooden lathis. Theyfear trouble, though the rain has dampened the enthusiasm of the crowd.The speakers finish and the crowd drifts away. An hour or so later,back in his village of Kundobodi, close to the refinery, Kumati Majhi,one of the protest leaders, is still railing against Vedanta. Thecompany claims it is committed to sustainable development of the area,he says, but their actions tell another story.
"Once they startmining the mountain will be bulldozed and the rivers will dry up andour livelihood will be lost," he says. "We will become fish out ofwater. We don't know how to adapt and survive and our way of living isnot available in the cities. We will be extinct."
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