Vedanta, state govt officials were in collusion: Saxena

Saxena, who has been under attack from Orissa government for giving "biased" recommendations during his visit to investigate the alleged violations, gave similar opinion about the Union environment officials concerned.

"I have not given clean certificate to the Union environment officials who too ignored various violations at the site at various times. The report has clearly stated that the state government officials were hand-in-glove with the company in 2005 by ignoring Forest Rights Act," he said.

In a major setback to the UK-based Vedanta Resources, Government today rejected environment clearance to its USD 1.7 billion bauxite mining project proposed in Niyamgiri hills Orissa citing serious violation of forest and environment laws pointed out by the Saxena panel.

Saxena said that it was a matter of concern that such violations were occurring rampantly.

"The grounds on which the Vedanta's project in Orissa was scrapped reflects the degeneration of moral and ethical values of our industry and government," said Saxena, a member of the National Advisory Council (NAC).

"I am not very happy. The case only shows our governance system has stooped to its lowest level. In fact it reflects the sorry state of affair in the country when it comes to environment and tribal rights.

"It is degeneration of moral and ethical values of our industry and government where both colluded to endanger the life and livelihood of tribals, (and) the fragile region threatening precious wildlife," he maintained.

Saxena panel report has made it clear that when it comes to forest land, even the Environment Ministry cannot override the veto of a gram sabha (village council). "MoEF would in fact be guilty of violating FRA if it ignores the wishes of the gram sabhas," it stated.

Saxena did not spare even the Tribal Affairs Ministry for failing to take up the cause of tribals.

"I am sorry to say that the Tribal Ministry has failed to protect the rights of the tribals at the site in Niyamgiri hills (in Orissa)," he said.

On illegal mining, he said, "The image of mining industry is very poor. They are notoriously corrupt as they rush to meet soaring demand. It is high time the government seriously looks into the industry's functioning."

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