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82). He introduced plantations that included potato, cabbage, tomato, chilli and brinjal, and helped the Dongria Kondh create irrigation channels from the streams flowing down the mountains (Sachchidananda, p. 83).
The anthropologist also succeeded in resolving feuds and negotiated trades with the Domb so they could enjoy the benefits of fresh fruit and produce without exploiting the Dongria Kondh. According to Sachchidananda on pae 84, among the benefits of having a person who truly understood and cared about the Dongria Kondh and the Domb was that there was a more peaceful interaction between the two indigenous tribes. A "pragmatic rather than mere humanistic approach" certainly aided in solving development and socioeconomic issues as well (Sachchidananda, p. 84).
Vedanta Resources' mining proposal
Meantime, a proposed mining project that was conceived by the Vedanta Resources (of London, UK) -- owned by Indian tycoon Anil Agarwal -- created a major controversy over the last few years. The proposed mine, to extract bauxite (which is a key ingredient in the production of aluminum) would have "an adverse impact on the local Dongria Kondh tribe, which is classified as a primitive tribal group," according to a report in the Economic Times (March 17, 2010). The Niyamgiri mountain region in the state of Orissa is rich in minerals, according to Indian Environmental Minister Jairam Ramesh, who was quoted in the Times' article. At the time this article was written in the Times the Indian government was waiting for a final report from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on the potential impacts to the Dongria Kondh tribe and other indigenous peoples in the area.
Also having an affect on the decision by the Indian government as to whether to allow Vedanta to proceed with it's mining project is the fact that apparently Vedanta actually started work "without receiving all clearances" (Economic Times). As of March 2010, Vedanta had not responded to those allegations. The government was weighing the decision based on whether or not the Forest Rights Act -- a law giving tribal communities (including the Dongria Kondh) "certain rights over forests where they traditionally reside" -- had been implemented in the state of Orissa, the Times reported. Incidentally, Orissa's state government leaders had sent a "strong letter of support" for the mining project. Quite apart from concern about the Dongria Kondh, the Vedanta mining issue became "embroiled in politics" and that the Congress party (the largest and most progressive political party in India) was opposed to the project.
Moreover, a report by a three-member independent committee had highlighted the adverse impacts the project would have -- including the fact that the mind "…may lead to the destruction of the Dongria Kondh as a [Primitive Tribal Group]" (Economic Times).
The Dongria Kondh people were so concerned about the possibility of bulldozers rumbling into their villages or near their villages to begin the earth moving needed to extract (from an open-cast mine) bauxite that they contacted Oscar-winning Hollywood director James Cameron (Hopkins, 2010, p. 1). Cameron's film "Avatar" was a box office success all over the world. As the plot of Avatar being similar to the dilemma with the Dongria Kondh -- hence the reason for contacting Cameron -- Stephen Corry, head of the charity Survival, is quoted by Hopkins in her article.
"Just as the Na'vi describe the forest of Pandora as 'their everything', for the Dongria Kondh, life and land have always been deeply connected. The fundamental story of Avatar…is being played out today in the hills of Niyamgiri," Corry explained in Hopkins' article. And like the Na'vi, the Dongria Kondh are "also at risk," Corry continues. "Their lands are set to be mined by Vedanta Resources who will stop at nothing to achieve their aims"; the mine will "destroy the forests on which the Dongria Kondh depend and wreck the lives of thousands of other Kondh tribal people living in the area" (Hopkins, p. 2).
In August 2010, the Environmental Minister of India, Jairam Ramesh, officially vetoed the Vedanta proposal to mine in the Niyamgiri region. Ramesh said that "…there have been serious violations of environment protection acts" and moreover he emphasized that his approach had been "a purely legal approach" (Bedi, 2010). He said there was no "prejudice, no politics," and "no emotion" associated with his position. The decision by Ramesh was in part based on a report by an "expert panel" that the Vedanta mining project would "threaten the 'survival' of the Dongria Kondh, who rely on the land for their livelihood" and the tribe believes that the hills they live in is also the home of "their God, Niyam Raga" (Bedi, p. 1).
Not only would the open mine destroy the land that the Dongria Kondh call their own, it would "drastically alter" the water supply for the entire region, the Environmental minister continued, quoting from the report. Referring to the fact that Vedanta had actually started developing the mine without a permit, and to some back-room corruption by state officials, Ramesh went on: "This is an act of total contempt for the law on the part of the company and shows an appalling degree of collusion on the part of the concerned officials" the report asserted (Bedi, p. 1).
On November 1, 2010, the Metal Bulletin reported the "damning conclusion" that there was not the "slightest evidence" that Vedanta had responded to the Indian government's recommendations during the permitting process for the project. The group Survival, an NGO, which had lobbied and advocated on behalf of the Dongria Kondh during the period that Vedanta was trying to get permission to develop the mine, reported that Vedanta "…appears to have ignored the National Contact Point's (NCP) recommendations in their entirety" (Metal Bulletin).
The attempt by the big mining company Vedanta Resources to disturb the pristine environment of India, and destroy water supplies to tens of thousands of people is certainly a violation of the land and an outrageously callus intrusion into India. But to push forward with a project that would also destroy an indigenous culture like the Dongria Kondh is beyond irresponsible -- it is wholly unconscionable and should be punished through whatever means the Indian government can apply. It has the tone reminiscent of the colonial British government's attitude towards India: we are in charge and if you don't follow our guidelines we'll force you to or harm you if you resist too forcefully.
Bedi, Rahul. (2010). India vetoes mining in tribal region. Irish Times. Retrieved Dec. 4, 2010,
From EBSCOhost (an 9FY3606474806).
Economic Times. (2010). Vedanta's Orissa mining project under govt. scanner. Retrieved Dec. 4, 2010, from EBSCOhost (an 2W61621100201).
Hopkins, Kathryn. (2010). Indian Tribe appeals for Avatar director's help to stop Vedanta.
The Guardian. Retrieved Dec. 4, 2010, from http://www.guardian.co.uk.
Kanungo, Akshaya K. (2008). Problems in Educating Tribal Children: The Dongria Kondh
Experience. In D. Nanjunda, a. Jurane, S. Wind, M. Annapurna, and J. Lakshmi (Eds.),
Ignored Claims: A…[continue]
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