Thursday, July 1, 2010

Corporation’s tactics to retaliate against activist?

The interesting part of news is that the official of Jindal Steel and Power claim that they had given a shop to Agrawal’s son to dissuade him from raising environmental issues.  So they are willing to engage in bribery if it serves their corporate interests?

The threat to kill company official makes it even more incredible?  An activist threatening to kill an official of a large, powerful company?  Makes sense to anyone?

The police complaint has shocked environmentalists. "This is exactly the tactic American Corporations have used to browbeat environmental activists," said Sunita Narain, Director, Centre for Science and Environment. She said this reminded her of SLAPP or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation used by companies in America "to shut up individuals who were raising issues of social and environmental concern".

"Ramesh Agrawal of Jan Chetana is well known to the environmental and human rights fraternity. He has been raising issues related to not just a single corporation but several agencies on a very systematic basis," said Kanchi Kohli of Kalpavriksha Environmental Action Group.

Agrawal has a long series of achievements to his credit. In 2009, a PIL filed by him in Delhi High Court resulted in a major amendment to the rules governing environmental clearance. The court made it mandatory for companies to publish their full environmental clearance order in two local newspapers to enable the affected people to access the order and challenge the clearance if need be.

Ritwick Dutta, well known environmental lawyer, who has represented Agrawal in several public interest cases, asked,
"Why has the company filed an FIR against Agrawal after MoEF acted against them? Why did it not go after him earlier?"

When asked why, Sanjeev Chauhan said, "We discussed the matter within the management. We were waiting for the right time". He added that the company "will definitely prove the allegations in court".
Environmentalists say proving allegations against Agrawal will not disprove allegations against the company.

"The Ministry did not rely on Agrawal's word. Its team did due diligence and found Jindal Power had clearly broken the rules," says Narain.

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