Two killed in clashes at Vedanta's India plant

Workers tried to force their way into the Lanjigarh facility over demand to provide jobs to local tribal people

Afp March 18, 2019

NEW DELHI: At least two people were killed Monday in clashes between workers and security staff of British-mining giant Vedanta outside its aluminium factory in the Indian state of Odisha, police said.

The protest turned deadly after dozens of workers armed with sticks tried to force their way into the Lanjigarh facility over a demand to provide jobs to local tribal people of the impoverished coastal state.

One protester and a security personnel were killed in the clash, police said.

"The security staff tried to stop them from entering the premises that triggered the clashes," a police officer in the area said. "Two people have died and nearly 30 are injured," he said, adding one of the victims was identified as a security guard.

The officer said the protesters went on a rampage and attacked a guard room before setting it on fire that caused the death of the security personnel.

The plant is owned by Vedanta Limited, an Indian subsidiary of the British-based Vedanta Resources owned by Indian-born billionaire tycoon Anil Agarwal.

The latest clashes come less than a year after police opened fire at protesters at Vedanta's copper smelter plant in southern Tamil Nadu state, killing 13 people.

Protesters accused that the smelter plant harmed the environment and the health of those living nearby -- claims the company has long denied.

Vedanta Aluminium has been dogged by controversy ever since it proposed mining the Niyamgiri hills for bauxite, a key raw material for aluminium.

The axe-wielding Dongria Kondh tribe, who consider the hills sacred, opposed the move fiercely and succeeded in stalling the ambitious project in 2014.

Their opposition received wide international support after parallels were drawn between the tribe's cause and the Hollywood science-fiction movie Avatar.

Defenders of the mining project say they want to create jobs in an impoverished region and bring tribal people into the economic mainstream.