London, Aug.24 (ANI): Survival International, an organization supporting tribals worldwide for over four decades, on Tuesday claimed a major victory for itself and the Dongria Tribe in India's eastern Orissa state after India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh blocked UK-based Vedanta Resources' controversial plan to mine bauxite on the sacred hills of the Dongria Kondh tribe.
Survival campaigner Dr. Jo Woodman, who experienced first-hand the atmosphere of intimidation in the Dongria's hills, said today, "This is a victory nobody would have believed possible. The Dongria's campaign became a litmus test of whether a small, marginalized tribe could stand up to a massive multinational company with an army of lobbyists and PR firms and the ear of government. Incredibly, the Dongria's courage and tenacity, allied with the support of many people in India, and Survival's supporters around the world, have triumphed."
Survival's Director Stephen Corry said: "The era when mining companies could get away with destroying those in their path with impunity is thankfully drawing to a close, though it remains significant that Vedanta fought for its plans to the end, repeatedly denying everything the tribespeople said. The concerned public must remain vigilant about these so-called development projects - companies simply cannot be trusted voluntarily to abide by human rights standards, particularly when dealing with tribal peoples who can't know what they're up against."
Earlier in the day, Ramesh said Vedanta had shown a 'shocking' and 'blatant disregard for the rights of the tribal groups' and also questioned the legality of the massive refinery Vedanta has already built below the hills.
The rejection of the project is a crushing defeat for Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal, Vedanta's majority owner and founder.
In recent years the project has come under unprecedented attack. The Norwegian and British governments, the Church of England, organizations such as Survival International, and even insurance giant Aviva have all criticized the company and its ethics.
The struggle had pitted the 8,000-strong tribe, nearly all of them illiterate, against the might of an eight billion dollar company and its founder, himself worth about six billion dollars. (ANI)