Congress Seeks Probe into Orissa Mining Deal with Vedanta
Times News Network
November 20, 2004

NEW DELHI: The Congress today sought and inquiry by the Centre into what it calls the questionable contract entered into between the Navin Patnaik government of Orissa and a Vedanta Alumina Ltd (VAL), a subsidiary of the Sterlite Industries Ltd for an alumina project.

The Congress alleges a financial scam and also violation of laws and forest land act in the deal. This is the first time the AICC is levelling corruption charges against the Patnaik regime.

The issue has been dominating the state for some time now and recently led to a physical tussle between the ruling side and the Opposition in the state Assembly in which the chief minister was reportedly injured.

A delegation led by the AICC general secretary in-charge Orissa, Digvijay Singh and comprising PCC leaders met the union forest and environment minister here urging him to send an investigating team to the state.

He also alleged that the project was cleared by the state government without the required clearance from the union ministry of environment.

Later addressing a press conference, Mr Singh said the contract between the state government-owned Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) and the VAL for the Lanjigarh-based project for manufacturing alumina by sourcing w bauxite from the mines located in the Niyamgiri Hill, was executed "without calling for an international tender".

He alleged that the project will encroach into 580.8 hectares of forest land. He said the contract had also reversed the stated policy of the state government not to hand over bauxite deposits in Karlapat reserves since it is a notified wildlife sanctuary where many rare species of wild-life were found.

He also alleged that the contract has ensured the majority share of the joint venture to the private player and thus the real say in the project, leaving the state mining corporation as a minor partner.

He alleged that the real intention of the private firm was not to manufacture aluminium but to transfer the alumina to Balco in Chattisgarh which is being owned by the Sterlites.

This, Mr Singh said, would deprive Orissa of an important employment-generating industry and crores of rupees.

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