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Death of Tuticorin protestors brings focus back on Vedanta’s environment violations

During this ten-year-period, The Wire said, it had also given political contributions to the Congress and BJP — donations that were held to be in violation of India’s Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act by the Delhi high court.

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Tuticorin protestors

Chennai, May 25 (IANS) The death of 13 anti-Sterlite Copper protestors in the police firing in Tuticorin has worsened the situation, focussing the limelight on its parent company Vedanta’s environmental violations.

Vedanta has said that it has followed the law at its copper smelter plant on pollution, but environmentalists and other activists point to major unresolved issues at Tuticorin. They also point to several other instances of violations in the past where Vedanta was involved.

“The protest and the killing of 13 persons in the police firing will make it difficult for the Sterlite Copper’s smelter plant (owned by Vedanta Ltd) to function again,” Nityanand Jayaraman, writer and social activist told IANS adding that “the death of 13 persons would not go in vain.”

Others are seeking permanent closure of the plant. “We have seen closure and reopening of the plant earlier. Till a permanent closure is announced, protests against the smelter plant would continue,” S.Raja of the traders association youth wing in Tuticorin told IANS over phone.

Even Chief Minister K.Palaniswami has said that the government is against the functioning of the copper smelter plant. The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has directed the plant not to commence production or operation without its consent. The power supply to the plant has been disconnected.

Activists and media reports say Vedanta has often overlooked the legal requirements in many cases. The Wire this week carried a story on how protests have dogged the company for several years. “From 2000 to 2010, the company’s alumina and bauxite mining operations in Lanjigarh district and the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha sparked widespread protests and cemented Vedanta’s reputation as an egregious polluter and offender of tribal and human rights,” the news portal said.

During this ten-year-period, The Wire said, it had also given political contributions to the Congress and BJP — donations that were held to be in violation of India’s Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act by the Delhi high court.

The company’s environmental violations very quickly proved impossible to ignore and drew sharp censure not just from local activists but also international investors and institutions. In 2007, Norway’s state pension fund relinquished its holding in the company over what it described as “environmental and human rights violations”, the portal said, adding that three years later, prominent investors such as the Church of England the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust also sold their stakes for similar reasons.

Its green clearance was pulled away by India’s environment ministry in the same year for “violating forests laws in Orissa”, it said.

To improve its public image, Vedanta has spent huge amount of money in its corporate social responsibility project and its boss, Anil Agarwal, is a strong supporter of Narendra Modi and his government, often going out of its way to welcome projects launched by the government — including associating itself with the ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign with a group company helping to build 30,000 toilets.

It’s campaign for a more benign outlook in media was also widely noted, and criticised. In 2016, the company’s sponsorship of the Jaipur Literature Festival’s edition in London sparked calls for a boycott campaign, according to The Wire. Over a hundred academics and writers launched a protest campaign and a “Boycott Vedanta JLF” London event, expressing “solidarity with the many communities suffering pollution, illness, oppression, displacement and poverty as a result of Vedanta’s operations”.

Back in Tuticorin, protestors say efforts are being made to suppress their voice totally. “The police firing seems to crush the anti-copper smelter plant protest as well as to act as a deterrent for other protests in Tamil Nadu,” Raja said.

On Tuesday, situation turned for the worse when a huge procession against the Sterlite’s copper smelter plant to mark the 100th day of protests were fired upon by police, after incidents of stone-throwing and torching of vehicles by the mob.

The police, who were said to have been outnumbered, resorted to firing resulting in the death of 11 persons. On Wednesday, in fresh firing one more person died and later one person succumbed to his injuries, bringing the death toll to 13.

When asked about the arson, Raja said: “It has to be probed. The people indulged in the arson could be anyone including those in favour of the smelter plant.”

Following the protests and police firing, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) rejected the renewal of consent (for 2018-2023) to operate the first unit of the Sterlite Copper smelter unit in Tuticorin, as it said the establishment had not fulfilled the conditions laid down by it.

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court stayed the construction works of Vedanta’s second copper smelter plant.

The company had planned to double its copper smelting capacity to 800,000 tpa but has failed to adequate answer several allegations of harm to locals from the pollution creating by its existing plant.

The company’s plant has been mired in controversy for violation of pollution control norms and other issues, ever since the AIADMK government in early 1990s gave the permission for its construction, after several other Indian states denied the same on grounds of likely environmental damage.

In 2013, the Supreme Court had fined Sterlite Rs 100 crore for polluting the environment in Tuticorin.

According to social activist Jayaraman, the TNPCB and Tuticorin District Administration’s analysis of 15 ground water samples in March 2018 showed that all the water sources were polluted and violated the Bureau of Indian Standards norms for drinking water parameters.

Jayaraman said levels of the neurotoxin heavy metal lead were found to be at far higher levels than what is considered safe for drinking water.

He said soon after the 100-day protest began, groundwater samples were taken by the officials from seven locations within the copper smelter plant premises and eight from the villages near the plant.

Jayaraman said the report came to light following queries under the Right to Information Act.

The Tuticorin District Administration, instead of warning the villagers against using the ground water based on the findings, kept the report under wrap, he said.

He also said, a 2008 study done by Tirunelveli Government Medical College found higher levels of musculoskeletal disorders among villagers living near the copper smelter plant.

Tamil Manthan, an anti-Sterlite Copper activist told IANS that people claimed higher incidence of cancer amongst residents near the smelter plant. According to Raja, over 550 new cancer cases were reported by the government hospital in Tuticorin.

One of the placard held by the protestors read: ‘Cancer for us and Copper for you?’

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Obituary – Ex-Aus batsman Dean Jones had a love affair with India

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Dean Jones

For some strange reason, a 51-second video clip of Dean Jones being bowled neck and crop for a duck by the legendary Kapil Dev in a Test against Australia went viral on Wednesday, with a commentator uttering the words “that’s the end of Dean Jones”. And, on Thursday Jones died of a cardiac arrest, aged 59 years and 184 days, in Mumbai.

Jones, who was in India to honour his contract with a broadcaster for the IPL, was close to many Indian players, like Kapil Dev and Dilip Vengsarkar, and was a regular visitor to India for cricket-related work.

A top order batsman, Jones, who was part of the second Tied Test in which he scored his maiden double century in 1986 in Madras, played 52 Tests and 164 ODIs between 1984 and 1994. He was a gutsy batsman and wasn’t scared of stepping out to play speedsters. His running between the wickets was very brisk. Jones is perhaps best known for his 210 in the Tied Test, his maiden double century at that level — an innings after which he was taken to a hospital and was put on a saline drip after he was dehydrated during his eight-and-a-half hours at the crease in hot and humid Madras, as Chennai was then called.”

A day that changed my life forever,” Jones tweeted on September 19, on the 34th anniversary of the Tied Test. Another tweet of his that day read:

“This Test was the Renaissance for Australian cricket. It was our Mt Everest moment. Under AB [Border] we started to believe that we can compete against the best. Great friendships started with the Indians. Our Journey had just begun!” Indeed, Jones’s friendship with Indians had well and truly begun in 1987, and some of his friends, like Kapil Dev, were in the team that played at Chepauk. India proved lucky for Jones as he was part of Allan Border’s team that won Australia their first ever World Cup, in 1987 at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. After retirement, Jones started getting TV work in India and was nicknamed ‘Professor Deano’. He even named his twitter handle @ProfDeano. Jones’s love affair with India continued both on and off the field. In Test cricket, although he played only three matches on Indian soil, his average here — 92.

75 — was the highest of the six countries he had played in. He played 18 ODIs in India and tallied 719 runs at 44.

94. The Aussie once also played alongside Indians in unofficial cricket. When a World XI gathered in England to celebrate the bicentenary of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in 1987, former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar partnered Jones in a game against Gloucestershire in Bristol.”

He was a very nice, jovial person. I was shocked when I heard this news today. I was absolutely devastated. Of course, we played against each other, representing India and Australia. We also played together once. It was one of the three matches played before the main five-day game between the MCC and Rest of the World XI at Lord’s in London. Dean and I had a 200-odd-run partnership. I scored 171 and he scored 70-odd in that match,” Vengsarkar told IANS. “Of course, I knew him very well. When he used to come to Mumbai for commentary etc, sometimes we used to meet. He was a good friend. And he used to play golf also. So, I was surprised that he collapsed and died today. It’s absolutely shocking,” he said. In mid-2000s, Jones also applied for the India coach’s job. Although he didn’t get the job, he became coach of the Islamabad franchise in the maiden Pakistan Super League in 2016 and guided the team to the title.

Jones played a prominent role in the revival of Australian cricket in late 1980s, especially during the 1987 World Cup and the 1989 Ashes Test series.

He went on to captain Victoria and Derbyshire. At times, Jones was too outspoken. As a commentator, he slipped a couple of times. In 2006, he called South Africa cricketer Hashim Amla a “terrorist”, a comment for which he had to pay a penalty. But he was accepted back into the commentary box while Amla forgave him. On Thursday morning, Jones reportedly greeted everyone when he was at the breakfast table in the hotel where he was staying in Mumbai. “When he went for breakfast, he was jovial and said ‘good morning boys, hope everything is fine’ to people present there,” a hotel source told IANS.

By Qaiser Mohammad Ali

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Obituary – MoS Railway Angadi will be remembered for warm gesture, smile

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Suresh Angadi,

New Delhi, Sep 23 : Minister of State for Railways Suresh Angadi, who passed away on Wednesday evening at a hospital here where he was being treated for Covid-19 will always be known for a big smile and warm gestures by his colleagues and friends.

Angadi was made the Minister of State for Railways in May last year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Soon after his appointment as MoS for Railways, he knew that he has to meet the expectations of PM Modi to improve the train services.

During the inaugural run of second Vande Bharat Express train between New Delhi to Katra on October 4 last year, just two months after the abrogation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, he travelled in train with media persons to give a message that the government is standing with the people of J&K for the overall development of the region.

There were around 80 media persons along including the camerapersons to cover the inaugural run of the Vande Bharat Express.

During the trip, Angadi kept on interacting with the media about the plans of the Railway Ministry to bring development in erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

He gave interviews for four consecutive hours without any break and assured that he answered all the tough questions posed to him.

Speaking to IANS on the same trip, Angadi had said, the Indian Railways, which has witnessed delays in completion of several important projects, was aiming to finish all of them by 2022, on the occasion of 75th Independence Day.

He had also said that the national transporter sees the option of allowing private operators to run trains as an opportunity to provide world class services.

Angadi had said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed that all the pending projects and works be completed by 2022. We are focusing on completing pending works, like doubling and tripling of tracks, electrification, installation of CCTVs and signalling system upgrade.”

“New projects will be taken up only after completing them,” Angadi said.

He also favoured giving trains to private operators, and cited the example of private TV channels and said, “The entry of private players will generate more jobs and investment opportunities. In the long run, a lot of development will follow due to the competition.”

In countries like China trains run at 400 kmph. But in India trains were not running even at 160 kmph, he said.

“To compete with the world, we have to opt for investment from many sources. When a private company or people comes and invests in railways, it will create opportunities to develop economy,” he had said.

The railways had last year proposed to corporatise Rae Bareli Modern Rail Coach factory in UP.

On opposition of the Congress and other parties to corporatisation and privatisation of railways’ manufacturing units, the Minister said, “The Congress never thought about development. It has always opposed development.”

“We have not got to think of the Congress, but development and competition, and let the economy grow and create employment opportunities,” Angadi said.

Citing examples, he had said, the national highways remained undeveloped till the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government took it up and today even foreign countries were appreciating them.

Angadi in the railway ministry was also known as one of the most punctual minister. He always came to the ministry on time and ensured that the press briefing started on time.

Angadi represented Belagavi constituency of Karnataka in Lok Sabha.

He first won from the seat in 2004 and remained undefeated from the seat till 2019.

He was also known as a media man, who always remained responsive to the queries of media even late in night.

Following the news of gis death, Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said, “Deeply anguished at the unfortunate demise of Suresh Angadiji. He was like my brother. Words fall short to describe his commitment and dedication towards the people. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this hour of need. Om Shanti.”

Angadi Angadi admitted at AIIMS on September 11 after testing positive for Covid-19. He breathed his last on Wednesday evening.

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It was all about being ruthless: MI skipper Rohit Sharma

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Rohit Sharma

Abu Dhabi, Sep 24 : Rohit Sharma, on Wednesday, returned to his usual, elegant self with a masterful innings to lead Mumbai Indians to a 49-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Rohit scored 80 off 54 as MI scored 195/5. In reply, KKR managed to score 146/9.

Interestingly, this marked MI’s first ever victory in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), having lost all of their matches in 2014 when a part of the group stage was played in the UAE.

“It was only two players from the 2014 squad. It was all about how we executed our plans today, we never let it go. We were in good position throughout the game but it was all about being ruthless, getting as many (runs) as possible. We knew the wicket was good and dew was coming down,” said Rohit in the post-match presentation ceremony in which he was declared Player of the Match.

As the KKR bowlers fumbled with their line and length and gave Rohit short deliveries, the MI captain replied with his trade mark pull shots to deposit the ball over the boundary.

“I back myself to play (the pull shots), love playing it and practiced it quite a bit. Pretty glad it came out well, they were all good (laughs), can’t pick one. I haven’t played a lot of cricket in the last six months time and was looking to spend some time in the middle; it didn’t come out well in the first innings but glad to have done it tonight,” he said.

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