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Row over move to sell away Zinc Smelter land by Vedanta

A file photo of an aerial view of Zinc Smelter in Visakhapatnam.K.R. DeepakK_R_DEEPAK

A file photo of an aerial view of Zinc Smelter in Visakhapatnam.K.R. DeepakK_R_DEEPAK  

Government urged to step in and restrain any attempt to sell the land

The alleged bid by the Vedanta Group to sell 365 acres at Mindi in the city belonging to Zinc Smelter of the erstwhile Hindustan Zinc Limited is raging into a controversy with many seeking the intervention of the government to stop it.

A year after it was shut down on February 9, 2012, Sterlite Industries India Ltd, a subsidiary of London-listed Vedanta Resources Plc, which picked up majority stake in the company, transferred the employees to Rajasthan and other States and subsequently convinced them to opt for a special voluntary retirement scheme.

The reports on bid to appoint a consultant by Vedanta Group to sell away the valuable lands on which Zinc Smelter is located has led a strong protests. “This is a glaring instance as to how disinvestment has finally paved the way for conversion of industrial lands into realty purpose,” said CITU industrial area in-charge S. Jyoteeswara Rao told The Hindu on Tuesday.

He said since the government also had a stake in the project, it should step in and restrain any attempt to sell away the land, which is estimated cost at least Rs. 5 crore per acre.

Former bureaucrat E.A.S. Sarma has threatened to approach the judiciary if the government failed to stop the attempts to sell the Zinc Smelter land and sought a probe into the entire deal by the CBI or CAG.

The Vedanta management had shut down the plant under the pretext of pollution and difficulties in sourcing raw material from opencast mines in Rajasthan. The then Union Minister for HRD D. Purandeswari had also stronly opposed the closure of the unit on ‘flimsy grounds.’

“Vedanta has mismanaged the HZL unit at Mindi village in Visakhapatnam, caused toxic pollution all around and damaged the health of its workers and the local villagers, apart from contaminating the groundwater aquifers. By now, if the government had any sensitivity to public interest, it would have brought HZL to book and imposed a heavy penalty on the company and its promoters,” Mr. Sarma stated in a letter to the Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha.

The value of the 365 acres of land at Mindi, at today's rates, would exceed Rs. 1,800 crore, he pointed out.

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