Self-styled guru, yoga teacher and founder of Patanjali, Ramdev, on Monday issued an extraordinary statement in support of the Tamil Nadu-based Sterlite copper plant, soon after his meeting with the Vedanta boss, Anil Agarwal and his wife in London.
He took to Twitter to praise the controversial billionaire businessman, whose company had faced violent protests in Tamil Nadu recently, resulting in the killings of 13 protesters in police firing.
In a series of posts, Ramdev, wrote, “Met @AnilAgarwal_Ved ji during my London visit. I salute his contribution in the national building process by creating lacs of jobs and economic prosperity.”
He then went on to blame the protesters for last month’s violence and said that ‘international conspirators’ had ‘created ruckus at one of Vedanta’s plant in South of India.’ Ramdev wrote, “International conspirators created ruckus at one of Vedanta’s plant in South of India through innocent local people. Industries are the temples of development for the nation. They should not be closed.”
As expected, his support for Agarwal and his polluting plant in Tamil Nadu, considerably irked the people in the southern Indian state, where anti-Sterlite protests have been an emotive issue. Many slammed the controversial guru threatening to boycott Patanjali products, while others mockingly asked him to take the plant owned by Vedanta to the Patanjali headquarters in Uttarakhand.
However, political neutrals were left bewildered on the shocking support by Ramdev for the Vedanta boss. The answer may lie in the CAG report, presented in parliament last year. The CAG, in its report had found that Patanjali was one of the 180 industries along the river Ganga, that polluted the river. The report had added that Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board (UEPPCB) was directed to take action against 180 Industries, including Patanjali, to whom Show Cause Notices had been issued in the Year 2015-16.
“Out of 180 defaulting industries to whom show cause notices were issued, in 109 cases, the notices were revoked between December 2015 to May 2017. 2. Out of 109, 67 defaulting units complied with the directions of the UEPPCB. However, 42 (Sl. No. 68
to Sl. No. 109 of Annexure 1.1) defaulting units neither submitted their compliance to the show cause notice nor approached the UEPPCB for inspection for watching compliance within the time prescribed in the show cause notices,” the CAG report had added.
The CAG report assumed significance as it also exposed the hypocrisy of the central government on its claims to clean the Ganga since this was also part of the BJP manifesto in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Ramdev, a known supporter of the BJP, had actively campaigned for the saffron party in 2014 parliamentary elections.
Immediately after the police firing killed 13 protestors in Tuticorin in May this year, the CPI-M’s general secretary Sitaram Yechury had alleged that Vedanta was the highest donor to the BJP. He had said, “Vedanta/Sterlite was the highest donor to big parties, so BJP sneaked in FCRA amendments retrospectively. Do these political donations make the police use assault rifles and behave like a private army?”
While condemning the killings of the 13 protesters, the Centre for Science and Environment had said that the 400,000-tonne-capacity smelting plant of Sterlite was rejected by three states – Gujarat, Goa and Maharashtra – before it made its way into Tamil Nadu because of its highly polluting nature. The plant was dangerously polluting the ground water.
Many would wonder now whether Ramdev’s support for Vedanta is a case of birds of a feather flocking together.