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Human right activists, tribal leaders and social activists in Orissa Sunday welcomed the Church of England’s decision to sell its shares in British mining major Vedanta due to its dissatisfaction with the company’s rights’ record in the state.
“It is a great step by the Church. It understood the peoples’ concern to protect their livelihood, land, forest, culture and identity,” Bratindi Jena, an activist of the Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti, a tribal organisation fighting to protect the hills, told IANS.

“This great step encourages the community to continue their struggle and help other shareholder investors to think about their investment pattern in the company. The Church has given a clear message to all other investors,” she said.

Human rights activist and Lokashakti Abhiyan president Prafulla Samantray told IANS that they were thankful to the church for the step. “In spite of all efforts by the company, the representatives of the Church could realise the plight of the tribals and established the truth,” he said.

The London-headquartered metals and mining company has built a one million tonne per annum capacity alumina refinery at the foot of the Niyamgiri hills near Lanjigarh in the state’s Kalahandi district, some 600 km from here.

The company is waiting to mine bauxite from the nearby Niyamgiri hills – held sacred by the local residents – and this has been vehemently opposed by residents and social activists. The firm, which is currently sourcing bauxite from other states at market rates, said mining permission in the hills was essential for it to reduce the cost of production.

The Church of England Friday sold off its shares, worth 3.75 million pounds, in the Indian-owned Vedanta Resources, saying it was “not satisfied” with the company’s human rights records in Orissa.

Sasanka Patnaik, Vedanta spokesman in Orissa, said the development will not affect the company’s projects in Orissa.

“We are disappointed by this development but it will no way affect our projects here. We respect the concern raised by the Church of England. We will continue to apprise them developments related to our project,” Patnaik told IANS.

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