About a year from now we were made familiar with three little children — Bindo, Pushto and Nando. These three very happy and cherubic, though obviously poor (their economic status was essential) children received a lot of airtime.
They made for the central aspect of a mining major’s ad campaign — an advertisement that told us that Vedanta was faking, err… sorry, “creating” happiness.
The company is back with more such touching stuff. Recently, one read about how the company is now going after the dreaded disease sickle cell anaemia with another CSR axe.
And yes, the battle against disease will be fought in Orissa, which had, in 2010, witnessed another battle of a different kind.
For those who may have forgotten, that year every newspaper, channel and drawing room was buzzing with the story of a place that sounded like an idyllic haven from mythical pasts — Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa.
An indigenous, and not to forget protected, tribe — Dongra Kondh — stood up against the mining giant to save what they believed to be the seat of their God Niyam Raja.
They fought because Vedanta’s entry into the region in 2008 had created problems for them — diseases, misery, dislocation and violation of human and environmental rights. They fought for rights they did not know existed.
But it looks like the company, which was blamed for uprooting villages, creating environment pollution and negligently leading to mining deaths — all misconstrued allegations, I’m sure — has turned over a new leaf.
Of course, last year the company corrected us — the multi-crore worth ads informed us that it has, in fact, helped people in over 550 villages with better healthcare, education and several other amenities.
Looks like it is time for detractors of the mining giant, including some former investors, to hide in shame for Vedanta is “fully committed to pursuing its investments in a responsible manner, respecting the environment and human rights”.
It was, after all, the audacious faceless masses who got in the way of development.
Reports of toxic wastes leaching from its plants into nearby water bodies and sources of drinking water notwithstanding, scrap dealer-turned-billionaire Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta continues to ‘support communities where they operate’.