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2 Killed Outside Vedanta Refinery in Odisha as Protests Over Jobs Take Violent Turn

While the police claimed that around 25 people injured were injured, locals said the number was more than 45.

Aniruddha Ghosal | News18.com@aniruddhg1

Updated:March 19, 2019, 1:33 PM IST
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2 Killed Outside Vedanta Refinery in Odisha as Protests Over Jobs Take Violent Turn
The Vedanta Limited alumina refinery in Lanjigarh in the eastern state of Odisha. (Image: Reuters)
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New Delhi: A local resident and an Odisha Industrial Security Force (OISF) jawan were killed when protests over various demands, including regular employment and benefits, turned violent outside Vedanta’s alumina refinery in Kalhandi district of Odisha.

Police said Monday’s demonstration took a violent turn when the protesting locals attempted to storm the factory premises. While the police claimed that around 25 people injured were injured, locals said the number was more than 45.

According to a senior officer the situation is now under control, with prohibitory orders in place.

The government has announced a job for the widow of OISF Hawaldar Sijit Minz who was among the two killed. The other deceased, was identified as Dani Batra, a native of Chhatrapur village under the Lajigarh administrative division. Police sources said he was a labourer at Vedanta.

This isn’t the first controversy that the 12-year-old plant has been embroiled in. The company had earlier kicked up a row with the Dongria and Kuntia Kondh tribal residents of the bauxite-rich Niyamgiri hill, after they were charged for violating environmental regulations.

The OISF was created under the Odisha Industrial Security Force Act (2012) and gives protection and security to state government-run industrial undertakings, and private and public sector undertakings.

The violence is said to have been triggered over the retrenchment of a local Vedanta employee, allegedly over his “intoxication during duty hours”. Residents of Rengopali and nearby villages turned up at the factory and began protesting over demands, including jobs (particularly for the local youth), facilities and enrolment of their children in a school run by the company.

An inquiry into the incident will be conducted by a sub-collector and the local police, while an FIR has been lodged against the OISF and Vedanta at the Lanjigarh police station by locals. The police added that no FIR has been lodged by the OISF.

A statement released by the Corporate Communications wing of Vedanta Limited said, “Some agitators near our Lanjigarh plant staged a protest which led to a violent agitation.

The local Odisha Industrial Security Force personnel (OISF), who intervened were attacked by the protestors during which some protestors and OISF personnel got injured and they were immediately moved to the local hospital.

According to the hospital authorities, one protestor and one OISF staff have succumbed to injuries.

The company offered "condolences to the families of the deceased and promised full cooperation to the authorities”. It has promised to give Rs 25 lakh as compensation to families of each deceased, while the state government has said it will give Rs 5 lakh.

The company’s version, however, stood refuted according to the version provided by a protester, Maheswar Pati. Reuters quoted Pati as saying that the state's industrial security force personnel had attacked the people without provocation.

"They physically assaulted us with sticks," Pati said. He added that the demonstrators included people from three neighbouring villages who had surrendered land to Vedanta in the hope of securing jobs for locals in the company.

Ajay Dixit, the Chief Executive of Vedanta's aluminium business, however, claimed that the protesters had disrupted production at the refinery by blocking railway lines supplying bauxite and burning the front gate and other parts of the premises.

"As soon as the bauxite supply resumes, we will be able to operate at a normal capacity," Reuters quoted Dixit as saying. Dixit did not specify a time frame for resumption of operations.

The incident comes 10 months after police opened fire on demonstrators protesting against Vedanta's copper smelter in Tamil Nadu, killing 13 people.
| Edited by: Angana Chakrabarti
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