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State govt hails SC verdict on Vedanta
- Opp.demand for Naveen’s resignation rejected

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 24: Welcoming the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Vedanta mining project, the Orissa government today said it would benefit the state.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik hailed the Supreme Court verdict saying it had virtually given a go ahead to the Vedanta project in principle.

The government also rejected the demand for the resignation of chief minister, even as Congress today threatened to launch agitation to pressurise the chief minister to step down.

“The Opposition demand for resignation of the chief minister is unjustified, ridiculous and politically motivated,” said state steel and mines minister Padmanabha Behera. The apex court had rather given clearance to the alumina refinery and bauxite mining project, he said.

Behera quoted excerpts from the Supreme Court judgment, which read “this court is not against the project in principle, it only seeks to protect the nature and subserve development”.

“If Sterlite Industries India Limited, State of Orissa and Orissa Mining Corporation jointly agree to comply with the rehabilitation package, this court may consider granting clearance to the project,” the judgment added.

The minister said the state government would implement the Supreme Court verdict by modifying the agreement with the Vedanta Alumina Limited in the light of court directives and form a special purpose vehicle with the Sterlite Industries India Limited and Orissa Mining Corporation.

He said there would be no difficulty in entering into an agreement with the Sterlite Industries India Limited for forming a special purpose vehicle as directed by the apex court, as the state government had earlier signed a MoU with the said company in 1997 for bauxite mining.

Sterlite Industries India Limited currently holds a shareholding of 29.5 per cent in Vedanta Alumina Limited, said the minister.

Stating that the Supreme Court verdict has benefited the State as well as the local people, Behera said the court had clearly asked the company to take care of the interest of the local tribals, peripheral development and environmental concerns.

The apex court has set preconditions such as depositing Rs 55 crore as net present value for afforestation and forest preservation, providing Rs 52.5 crore for the protection and preservation of wildlife and another Rs 12.5 crore for tribal welfare.

Contributing 5 per cent of the net profit before taxation to the special purpose vehicle annually and committing the number of locals who could be given permanent employment, are other prerequisites, Behera said.

He also claimed that most of the preconditions had been laid by the state government.

However, pressing for the resignation of the chief minister, Orissa Pradesh Congress Committee president Jaydev Jena said the apex court verdict was a virtual indictment of the chief minister, who had showed “undue favour “to Vedanta Alumina Limited.

“Naveen had laid the foundation stone of Vedanta’s alumina refinery at Lanjigarh before the environment clearance by the Centre,” said the Jena.

He should step down immediately as he has lost moral right to rule the state and the agreement signed by his government with the Vedanta Alumina should be scrapped forthwith, demanded Jena.

Congress will continue its agitation till the chief minister resigns and Vedanta left the state, he said.

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