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Open letter to Piyush Pandey on Vedanta’s “Creating Happiness”

Open letter to Piyush Pandey on Vedanta’s “Creating Happiness” 

To

Executive Chairman &National Creative Director India and South Asia

Ogilvy & Mather Pvt Ltd

21st Feb, 2012

Dear Mr Piyush Pandey

Greetings !

You are the Icon of  Indian advertising Industry and I was delighted to know that you  have  been appointed as the brand ambassador forD&AD White Pencil Award. The new award from D&AD has been announced for an idea that raises awareness or changes behaviour around a pressing social, environmental or health issue. This is a significant initiative in the world of communication.

Your  mile sur humara tumhara’ for the National Literacy Mission in 1988  got etched in our collective Indian advertising  memory years ago.

As also your  anti smoking ads  for the Cancer Patient association  which won you  two Cannes Gold Medals in 2002.

In 1999  “Bhopal Express” – a film based on the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984 that was co- written by you, acted as a catalyst in bringing to the forefront  the human rights violations committed by Union Carbide , a  corporate genocide. You supported the cause of Bhopal gas victims, and  I respect  you for that.

After  so many socially responsible ad campaigns  by you  I was aghast  to see  Vedanta’s  “Creating Happiness” ad . Recently unveiling the campaign you said The Vedanta ‘Creating Happiness’ campaign is extremely close to my heart for it’s all about enabling India. I have worked on this campaign along with my team as an excited young copywriter and I look forward to the people of India not just appreciating Vedanta’s efforts, but getting inspired to do something on their own to make India happier place. http://www.mxmindia.com/2012/01/vedanta-group-unveils-first-ever-national-corporate-campaign/

May I ask you, if you really know whether Vedanta has enabled or disabled India ?  Whether  Vedanta has protected the environment of the tribals in India, or has been on land grabbing spree and attacking peaceful protestors?

I urge you to visit Niyamgiri hills, I am sure you will love the paradise on earth, which  Vedanta is hell bent on destroying .

Niyamgiri Hills, named after the Niyamraja, the main deity of the Donagria Kondhs, are one of last untouched wildernesses of Orissa. Rising to a height of more than four thousand feet, it is the source of Vamshadhara river as well as major tributaries of Nagavali rivers. Niyamgiris form a distinct phytogeographical zone because of its height and its highly precipitous topography . It has some of the most pristine forests in Orissa. Niyamgiri flora is of ‘great phyto-geographical importance’ as the hilltops harbor high altitude plants with Himalayan/North Indian and Nilgiri/South Indian elements. Preliminary studies show that it has approximately 50 species of important medicinal plants, about 20 species of wild ornamental plants, and more than 10 species of wild relatives of crop plants .

The forested slopes of the Niyamgiri hills and the many streams that flow through them provide the means of living for Dongaria Kondh and Kutia Kondh, Scheduled Tribes that are notified by the government as ‘Primitive Tribal Groups’ and thus eligible for special protection. In addition, the Dongaria Kondh, whose total population is 7952 according to the 2001 census, are regarded as an endangered tribe. Schedule V of the Indian Constitution which enjoins the government to respect and uphold the land rights of Scheduled Tribes applies to the entire Niyamgiri hills region. While the Kutia Kondh inhabit the foothills, the Dongaria Kondh live in the upper reaches of the Niyamgiri hills which is their only habitat.

In the polytheistic animist worldview of the Kondh, the hilltops and their associated forests are regarded as supreme deities. The highest hill peak, which is under the proposed mining lease area, is the home of their most revered god, Niyam Raja, ‘the giver of law’.

They worship the mountains (dongar from which the Dongaria Kondh derive their name) along with the earth (dharini). These male and female principles come together to grant the Kondh prosperity, fertility and health.

According , ‘Report of the four member committee for investigation into the proposal submitted by the Orissa Mining Company for bauxite mining in Niyamgiri’, dated August 16, 2010, by Dr N C Saxena, Dr S Parasuraman, Dr Promode Kant, Dr Amita Baviskar. Submitted to the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India.

”As Narendra Majhi, a Kutia Kondh from Similibhata village, said, “We worship Niyam Raja and Dharini Penu. That is why we don’t fall ill”. Sikoka Lodo, a Dongaria Kondh from Lakpadar village said, “As long as the mountain is alive, we will not die”. Dongaria Kondh art and craft reflect the importance of the mountains to their community— their triangular shapes recur in the designs painted on the walls of the village shrine as well as in the colourful shawls that they wear. All the Dongria and Kutia Kondh villagers that the Committee conversed with emphasized the connection between their culture and the forest ecology of the Niyamgiri hills. Their belief in the sacredness of the hills is rooted in a strong dependence on the natural resources that the mountains provide. Their customary practices in the area include agriculture, grazing and the collection of minor forest produce (MFP).All Dongaria Kondh that the Committee spoke to expressed their strong attachment to the Niyamgiri hills, their stewardship of the land, and the legitimacy of their rights arising from their long-standing presence in these hills. They strongly voiced their contentment with life and their opposition to any destructive change of the ecology threatening their culture. As Sikoka Budhga said, “We can never leave Niyamgiri. If the mountains are mined, the water will dry up. The crops won’t ripen. The medicinal plants will disappear. The air will turn bad. Our gods will be angry. How will we live? We cannot leave Niyamgiri.”

Research by Amnesty International and other local and international groups documents the serious and continuing pollution caused by the refinery’s operations. Despite the string of decisions against Vedanta, the company has failed to remedy the pollution.The latest high court verdict states that Vedanta cannot circumvent conditions issued by India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), stipulating that plans for expansion of the refinery should go through a fresh environmental and social impact assessment and a public hearing process. Residents of 12 villages who live in the shadow of the massive refinery – mostly Majhi Kondh Adivasi (Indigenous) and Dalit communities who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods – have long campaigned against the expansion.India’s great land grab continues, with police forcibly evicting tribal villagers in Orissa from land sold to UK-based Vedanta Resources to use as a toxic waste dump .

In your various interviews you have time again said you get creative insights from the people you interact with and also while you make ad campaigns you relate to the common man.I urge  you to go and find for yourself what Vedanta is doing to Niyamgiri Hills and talk to the tribals yourself to know the truth.

Meanwhile I would like you to see  activist Satyabadi Naik’s shocking video of police crackdown on a peaceful protest by women of Rengopalli and other villages against Vedanta’s toxic Red Mud Pond in Lanjigarh. This video was recorded on 23 Jan 2012. Watch the Video  urgent-villagers-protest-against-vedanta-red-mud-pond

Soem more films on the  REAL FACE OF VEDANTA

The Real Face of Vedanta

Niyamgiri – The Mountain of Law

Now after reading my letter and watching  the videos you tell me , is  Vedanta “ Creating  Happiness “ or ‘ Faking  Happiness” ?

Regards

Adv Kamayani Bali Mahabal

Mumbai

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About Intercultural Resources

Intercultural Resources is a forum for research and political intervention on issues related to the impacts and alternatives to destructive development. Our effort draws upon the social, cultural, material and intellectual resources that have been generated in the course of dialogues between people of different cultures on questions of social justice, development and self-rule. We are of the view that dialogue can sustain plurality and open possibilities for recovery of the ground lost on account of inter-cultural alienation, which is manifest in a variety of forms of violence that we encounter everyday at different levels of social life. Intercultural Resources is based in Delhi, India. Email: ihpindia@gmail.com

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