ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Of Carrying on Business

Palliatives are all that seem to be the lot of the victims of market-driven industrialisation.

While recognising the right of Vedanta Resources to carry on business in India, the union government and the state government of Orissa did not seem to think that certain reasonable limits ought to be placed on this right, in line with the Constitution and the law. The Supreme Court has had to step in to lay down those limits. In specifying the conditions under which Vedanta Aluminium – an associate of Sterlite Industries (India), the main arm of the UK-based Vedanta Resources in India – should be allowed to set up its large integrated aluminium project, starting from the mining of bauxite deposits on the top of the Niyamgiri hills at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district of Orissa, the court seems to have set a benchmark for a number of miningbased industrial projects. While no doubt correcting the unreasonable exercise of power of the union government and the state government of Orissa, all the court’s order specifies are certain palliative measures the company will have to agree to undertake in order to get the court’s clearance of the project.

In India today, “habitat” – the habitability of the natural environment together with the security of human beings in their socio-cultural environment – is being traded off for “improvement” – productivity and economic growth – in ways that are discriminating against the poor. The Directive Principles of the Constitution place limits on the right to carry on business, with Articles 39B and C providing guiding principles in this respect, but the executive seems to be disregarding them. (According to Article 39B, the state shall ensure that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as to subserve the common good, while Article 39C exhorts the state not to allow the economic system to operate in a manner that aggravates the concentration of wealth to the common detriment.) A fundamental duty set forth in Article 51A, which calls upon every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, rivers and wildlife, is being disregarded in decision-making processes at the higher echelons of business and government. There are also the rights of tribal communities under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, which, when considering permission to companies to engage in mining activity in scheduled areas, are being infringed. Indeed, the situation on the ground is a hopeless one, for present-day state governments, besides identifying large tracts of land for special economic zones and other projects on behalf of big business, also seem to have given a commitment to the entrepreneurs that they will deploy the required machinery to stifle any protests of the project-affected people, should these people demand their securing of all these rights.

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