Strange Bedfellows for Action Aid:

International NGO Action Aid appeared to be campaigning vigorously against Vedanta only to apparently change course from time to time:  on August 14th 2010, as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility project ‘Partners in Change’ it was part of a jury which awarded Vedanta the “Best Community Development”  for its ‘good work’ around the Lanjigarh refinery at Niyamgiri hills, as advertised proudly on Vedanta’s website (accessed 25/7/11).

Four days later Vedanta’s Lanjigarh project was damned by the Indian government’s Saxena Report for violations of tribal rights and illegal land grabbing. In 2003 Action Aid had accepted donations from Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/mp/2003/02/10/stories/2003021000580200.htm

and had also signed a MOU with Vedanta’s investor ICICI bank  http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2003-11-20/pune/27212224_1_donor-loyalty-programme-karm-mitra-actionaid-india

Action Aid is also developing an interesting relationship with another multinational company  Essar Energy Plc. Essar is the notorious corporate which along with Tatas secretly funded the Salwa Judum  – the private army which has massacred hundreds of villagers  and forcing others to flee their villages to clear the land for mining. This was all done in the name of the Indian government fighting the Maoists.

One may not expect Action Aid to cosy up to Essar and on the face of it, it does not. In fact the Action Aid website has publicized the fact http://www.actionaid.org.uk/102019/blog.html?article=2237 that Essar sold a subsidiary Hutchinson Essar to Vodafone  in the Cayman islands tax haven and Vodafone have been found guilty of tax avoidance by the Indian Supreme Court .

But this criticism appears to be a cover for Action Aid’s real relationship with Essar. Action Aid is quite happy to help build a caring, sharing image for Essar. On Sunday 14 August  Essar Energy Plc along with law corporate  Clifford Chance which advises Royal Dutch Shell among others  is sponsoring  a so-called ‘Freedom Run’  to raise money for Action Aid. http://www.freedom-run.co.uk This is in celebration of India’s independence – which the organizers describe  entirely in terms of the heroic deeds of the Indian army in places like Kashmir.

Meanwhile the British government’s support for Vedanta has been made quite explicit by David Cameron. In a letter to Indian PM Manmohan Singh,

http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2011/03/08/david-cameron’s-‘diplomatic’-gunboats-misfire-in-india-and-libya/3

Cameron  complains about the various problems encountered by British firms and more specifically about the delayed regulatory approval for the $9.6bn sale by Cairn Energy of its Indian natural gas fields to Vedanta.

 

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