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

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Vedanta Hymn: The Scion's Political Gambit

Rahul Gandhi claimed that he will represent the tribal people in Delhi's power corridors. It is good that he has decided to raise the issue of displacement and dispossession of the people, their lands and forests but Niyamgiri is not just one exception. While Vedanta has a terrible global track record, to live up to his promise the junior Gandhi will have to question the entire economic policy of his party's government which has foisted an anti-democratic and deeply inegalitarian strategy of development on the people, one which is drawing forth widespread resistance.

Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi recently put in an appearance at Lanjigarh, Orissa, to express solidarity with the Dongriya Kondh tribal people who inhabit the immediate environs of the forested Niyamgiri hills. For the moment, the Kondhs have won a reprieve, with the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) putting on hold plans to mine the hills for bauxite.

During his visit, the younger Gandhi a ssured the tribal people that he would be their voice in the national capital and would take their demands to the union government, even as he complimented them on their fortitude and resistance. While Gandhi has by and large made all the right moves in an attempt to bolster the alleged “inclusive development” of the government, he must also train his sights on the plight of other tribal communities, especially those inhabiting forested, m ineral-rich tracts. There is, for instance, some substance in the claim made by the Biju Janata Dal government in Orissa with reference to the Polavaram dam being built in Andhra Pradesh. It will submerge tracts of land in Orissa and elsewhere, displacing tribal people. If the Congress allows that issue to get entangled in partisan politics, the younger Gandhi’s rhetoric will be undermined. The two cases, Niyamgiri and Polavaram, are not necessarily commensurate and, in any case, one does not justify the other.

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