This may sound unbelievable, but it's true.
On Wednesday, 14 Greenpeace India activists scaled Essar's headquarters in Mahalakshmi and unfurled a huge banner. In retaliation, Essar has filed a lawsuit against Greenpeace India and Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (MSS) - an organisation set up to defend the rights of those whose livelihood depends upon the Mahan forests seeking a gag order against Greenpeace and Rs. 500 crore as damage to their reputation and image. The company, that values profits, has been bending all rules, including environmental objections, in order to get hold of the Mahan forest area allocated to them through a process that has become the focus of anti-corruption campaign in India. Mahan coal block figures in the coalgate and is currently not only under CBI scanner, it faces a Coal Ministry notice for cancellation.
This lawsuit is clearly a bullying tactic that is intended to intimidate us into abandoning the Mahan forests and the 14,000 people who depend on them for livelihood. However, it will achieve no such thing. Greenpeace has a proud history of fighting injustice through non-violent creative confrontations, and nowhere in the world is that spirit more relevant than in India. We have exposed corporate giants like Shell, KFC, Adani Group and Tata, amongst many others, and we shall expose Essar too, so long as they insist on oppressing vulnerable people in the chase for their own profits. This lawsuit just makes us more determined, because it is proof that we are starting to expose things they don't want the public to know.
We're not the only ones standing with the Mahan Sangharsh Samiti. KC Deo, the Union Cabinet Minister for Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj has also recognised the violations that have taken place in Mahan. "There have been allegations of indigenous people's signatures being forged to secure their land in Mahan," he said in July 2013 in a joint press conference held with the MSS. "The state government is not following norms. Signature allegations should be examined and investigated. I assure my full cooperation."
Furthermore, the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board (MPPCB) has sent orders to Essar Energy's Mahan-I 600MW coal-fired power plant in Singrauli district to stop all operations. Reason is large quantities of fly ash, an effluent discharged during the combustion of coal, was flowing from the plant into the Garha stream and the surrounding areas. [Source: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/mp-asks-essar-to-shut-down-singrauli-plant/article5624050.ece]
Keeping in mind the current scenario, we know we're representing the views of 1,029,363 Indians who have pledged to protect the biodiversity rich forests of central and eastern India, of which Mahan is a gem. These are people who would not allow these mega corporations to destroy our country's natural wealth for their narrow financial gain.
Our sole concern is to protect the forests of Mahan and its people, and for that, we are willing to go as far as it takes.
Join us today. www.junglistan.org
Samit Aich is the Executive Director of Greenpeace India.