The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rising stalls production
- Economic blockade in Kalahandi

Bhubaneswar, June 16: Over 6,000 tribals and non-tribals of Kalahandi and Raygada today laid siege to the 1 million tonne alumina refinery being built by Vedanta Alumina at Lanjigarh.

Stopping all vehicles going to the factory this morning, the protesters, led by former Union minister Bhakta Charan Das’s Green Kalahandi, virtually brought activities in the firm to a grinding halt.

The tribals and the non-tribals stopped traffic of men and materials and disconnected water supply at 11 points in Kalahandi and neighbouring Raygada, including three places in Lanjigarh, a block headquarters of the district.

Since morning, the tribals blocked roads in Dahikhal, Kansari, Jagannathpur square, Biswanathpur, Shikerkupa, Narla, Satpur, Medinipur, Kesinga, Pastikuda and the Vedanta Rehabilitation Colony.

Das, who spearheaded the protest, said the tribals effectively stopped water supply to the factory from the Tel river at Kesinga.

“We also stopped rakes carrying bauxite ore to the factory at Lanjigarh at Kesinga railway station,” he claimed.

Das said the protesters picketed near the Vedanta rehabilitation colony, where most of its employees stay, and tried to stop the workers from joining office.

The former Union minister alleged that the district administration had clamped Section 144 around the Vedanta factory without any reason.

“It seems the state is going all out to support the company. It makes us feel we are not living in democracy,” he said.

The administration, however, claimed the blockade did not have any major impact on the factory even as Kalahandi superintendent of police Sharat Chandra Chayupatnaik said 32 people were arrested till this evening.

“The blockade did not affect the traffic to the plant. The factory authorities had taken adequate precaution. The bauxite ores were stored in advance. We also managed to restore the water supply by the afternoon,” he said.

Chyauptanaik said 12 platoons of police and 100 homeguards and constables have been deployed all around the district to thwart the blockade.

Significantly, the Green Kalahandi, under the leadership of Das, is opposing the refinery on the grounds that it would entail massive destruction of environment.

Vedanta Alumina had signed a MoU with the state government on June 7, 2003, to establish a 1 million tonne alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district along with a 100MW captive power plant with an investment of Rs 4,000 crore.

The factory, which has started “experimental prod- uction”, is yet to get the mining lease in Kalahandi as a case is pending in the Supreme Court.

The court is hearing the public interest litigation filed by environmentalists Biswajit Mohanty and Prafulla Samanta. In their petition, the duo alleged that the proposed mining of bauxite ore on Niyamgiri hills would destroy its eco system. The case has been adjourned for hearing to August this year.

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