The irony could not have been more pronounced than the context in which Vedanta Resources figured in the media. Anil Aggarwal’s rags-to-riches story was splattered all over in the English language papers. That this man who dealt with scrap business as late as in 1976 had grown in size to acquisition Cairn Energy’s India operations and is all set to enter the petro-refining sector too. And his acquisition of the English company takes him to join the exalted club that makes India proud.
And there was also a report, which was expected anytime, that stated with documentary evidence that Vedanta Resources is guilty of illegal mining and such other activities in Orissa. The report, incidentally and importantly, confirmed what activists engaged in the campaign against our mineral resources from being stolen away were saying for sometimes now. And unlike those activists whom the Union Home Minister has been accusing all these days as taking sides with the Maoists, this committee was constituted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.
The four-member committee’s head, N.C.Saxena is a former IAS officer and presently a member of the National Advisory Committee that Sonia Gandhi leads and acts as the conscience keeper to the Manmohan Singh Government. And the other members of the committee as Parasuraman, now head of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Amita Baviskar, professor at the Institute of Economic Growth and Amode Kant, a retired Forest Officer are certainly not part of the community that Home Minister Chidambaram calls the Maoists or their sympathisers.
The point is that the truth has been established and the truth is that Vedanta Resources is now found guilty of encroaching upon government land and illegally built its aluminium plant in the forests. I must add that P.Chidambaram was on the Board of Vedanta Resources and he quit from that only because he decided to become the Union Finance Minister in June 2004. In other words, Chidambaram, as Director of the company, was as much a participant in their acts and he left the company’s services only because the Constitution mandates that a minister shall not remain in the Board of a Company.
It is important to remember that the four-member panel was constituted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to study and report as to whether Vedanta Resources, the company headed by Anil Aggarwal, involved in bauxite mining and aluminium smelting in the forests land in Orissa, was guilty of charges of violating Environment and Forest laws. It may be noted that this company also owns and operates a copper smelting plant in Tuticorin, is now the owner of MALCO in Mettur and also operates bauxite mines in the Yercaud hills and is also engaged in mining operations in many other forests including in Chattisgarh.
The Government committee, after examining evidence and studying the project in Orissa has concluded that Anil Aggarwal’s Vedanta Resources is guilty on a variety of illegal activities. It is also evident from the committee’s report that officers including those in the level of District Collectors and other authorities of the Orissa Government were guilty of allowing all the illegal activities of Anil Aggarwal’s Vedanta Resources. The committee did not say the obvious. That scrap-dealer-turned-industrialist managed to grow only because he greased the palms of the law makers, bought up law enforcers and broke all the laws to make it to riches.
All that went into the making of another such achiever – Dhirubhai Ambani – and picturised by Mani Ratnam in Guru could apply to Anil Aggarwal and Vedanta too. There is one more addition. While Ambani’s growth did not provoke resistance in the forests by adivasis (which Chidambaram and Manmohan Singh call the biggest threat to national security), Anil Aggarwal, because he entered the mining business has also provoked such resistance. It is time that Sonia Gandhi acts on the report and allows Jairam Ramesh to make the difference. Meanwhile, it is also necessary to make sure that we the people of India are informed on all that P.Chidambaram had to do in the making of Vedanta into what it is when he was a Director of the Company!
Vedanta, in the Hindu tradition, defines this world and all that it is as mere illusion... maaya... well Anil Agarwal's Vedanta is real... But then, let me add that the real as we see it is not the real. Is it a benami? It is! And the real is concealed by this illusion that we see as Anil Aggarwal!!!