Earlier some news papers had reported that with the Cairn’s deal and the upcoming IPO of Sterlite Anil Agarwal may become the richest Indian and among the 5 richest in the world. Considering his interest in Odisha (for now in Kalahandi, Jharsuguda and Puri) it is important to know about what he has in mind. An interview is a better medium than articles and propaganda pieces. So here is an excerpt from his interview to CNBC as given in moneycontrol.com.
Q: Let me talk about the other controversy that you are currently dealing with and that is with your Lanjigarh refinery where the ministry of environment or the center has said that you violated environmental norms, you did not have appropriate clearances before you went ahead and actually began construction and your expansion there. You have of course refuted all of these allegations, you have responded to the government showcause notice to you. There was a committee that actually setup, and the committee also said that you flouted the environment norms. is it the end of the road as far as your Lanjigarh expansion plans are concerns? Are you feeling more confident? Have you spoken with Jairam Ramesh? Do you intend speaking with Jairam Ramesh to present your case?
A: Let’s look at the overall picture. This is a story of aluminium. We are in a natural position to produce aluminum which is green metal which is required for human development on a day to day basis. China produces 22 million tonne of aluminium against the 1.5 million tonne that we produce.
In seeing that Rs 45,000 crore has already been invested in the aluminium sector and we are producing aluminium and we are running this plant very well. Now to produce aluminium we need bauxite. That’s a fundamental (requirement) to have bauxite. India has one of the finest and huge reserves of bauxite, of which Orissa has largest bauxite and Lanjigarh area has the largest bauxite and that’s why we setup the plant there.
The intention is that we have already invested the money. At the moment we are buying the bauxite from outside and running the plant which is not natural. We have complied with all the rules. Why would somebody go to Kalahandi and invest USD 2 billion. It’s the most backward area of India. We have gone there and invested on the presumption because here is the bauxite and here development will take place. Lanjigarh and Kalahandi have a different face today.
Q: But the tribal community that is currently based there in the Niyamgiri Hills believes that they don’t want Vedanta, they don’t want your refinery, they don’t want you to mine there. And you’ve had NGO after NGO, you’ve had the Church of England, you have had Bianca Jagger, you have had the Center for Science and Environment, you have had of course the government appointed committee saying that you are in violation of environmental norms. The Center for Science and Environment has gone as far as to say that Vedanta and Anil Agarwal are history sheeters when it comes to environmental violation?
A: You must know that I have used this word not a blade of grass has been moved. What are you talking about violating the norms? Not a blade of grass has been moved on that and that mine isn’t on our name. We were supposed to get the clearance, with the joint venture or the Orissa government was supposed to do and before that this came up. Sometimes I believe that there are vested interests.
Q: You believe this is because of vested interest?
A: I’m just saying because how long India will stop? We have to produce aluminium which is required for our day to day development because thousands of industries are to be developed on the basis of aluminium.
Q: But at the cost of destroying the environment, at the cost of displacing the tribal community that is based there because that’s the allegation?
A: One thing I can tell you as Anil Agarwal, I will never flout. I am more sensitive about our people, our Adivasi people than anybody else. I am more sensitive. Orissa is only bauxite – bauxite – bauxite. We all are working together; we are looking forward to get the bauxite to run our plant.
Q: Is this politics at play? Let me ask you directly do you feel that this is politics at play, that you have gotten caught between the politics of the BJP, the BJD and the Congress party. Rahul Gandhi visited the Niyamgiri region, visited Lanjigarh and said that I am your sipahi in Delhi, I am the tribal community’s sipahi in Delhi. Do you believe that you have gotten caught between the politics of the Congress, the BJP and the BJD?
A: I can tell you that Rahul Gandhi was very clear that he is not against development. He was definitely and we all are with him as far as tribals are concerned. We will make sure that whatever the government policy is and whatever the government wants for the tribal, as far as we are concerned we are not going to touch anything unless it has been completely settled down. But Orissa has huge Bauxite. What you are talking about is may be quarter percent of what they have.
Q: You can shift the location you are saying. That if indeed you were not get clearance as far as mining in this region is concerned you would look at other regions?
A: Because there is only Bauxite. Huge employment will be created; we need aluminium and the 25 years can you believe after Nalco there is no mining which has opened.
Q: Are you going to talk to the Congress, have you reached out to the Congress party? There seems to be a perception that there is some sort of trouble when it comes to the Congress and its relationship with Anil Agarwal, is that a true perception?
A: I don’t have to believe because everything has been done. What you are seeing what has not happened. What you are not seeing is what has happened. We have invested almost USD 20 billion in India, created huge employment, paying huge income tax. There is no reason to believe that government is not with us. Otherwise they will never do it.
But when the question comes of tribals we are with them. When it comes to Cairn Energy I am giving them enough, if there is anything which we can do to take the country into the next level. So if you look at our credentials, we have worked with the government all the time and we have got all our clearances for our power plant, for our aluminum plant.
Q: Jairam Ramesh doesn’t seem to think so?
A: He has given 50 clearances to us, except these two clearances. I am just thinking 40–50 clearance must have come through him.
Q: So what is the problem with these two clearances you think because you continue to believe that you have done everything as far as getting the environmental clearances are concerned, that you have not flouted any norms, why do you believe that we have reached this point where you have been asked not to construct further, not to expand further, there is a status quo as far as your plans for Lanjigarh are concerned?
A: We are in democratic country, we are not in China. When something is there somebody has to address and we all are addressing jointly because my agenda is not different than the government’s. We live in a democratic country and we have to take our society with us.
If you look at it, aluminium is very important metal and we have to make sure that a couple of million tonne of aluminium is added to our country.