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Vedanta Lobbied to Weaken Environmental Regulations During Pandemic: OCCRP

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Vedanta engaged in “covert” lobbying to alter important environmental laws, according to a report published on Thursday by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

Anil Agarwal, the chairman of Vedanta Group, reportedly told former environment minister Prakash Javadekar in January 2021 that the government might provide India’s economic recovery “impetus” by enabling mining corporations to increase production by up to 50% without needing to obtain new environmental permits.

According to the article, Cairn India, an oil subsidiary of Vedanta, also successfully fought to have public hearings for exploratory drilling in oil blocks it won in government auctions dropped. According to Vedanta, the company operated with the goal of “import substitution by enhancing domestic production in a sustainable manner” and was “one of the leading natural resources organisations in India.”

According to a corporate spokeswoman who talked to OCCRP, “in view of the same, continuous representations are submitted for consideration to the Government in the best interest of national development and India’s march towards self-reliance in natural resources.” Requests for comment from Reuters were not immediately answered by Vedanta or Cairn India.

Also read, Adani Case: ED flags suspicious activities by 16 entities, including one private Indian bank.

Benefits of This for Vedanta:

The favors to the company allegedly went beyond the mining sector to Cairn Oil and Gas, one of the company’s subsidiaries. Cairn pushed for the elimination of public hearings for oil exploration projects in 2021. 

Cairn has so far obtained six oil projects in Rajasthan’s northern deserts as a result of the government surreptitiously altering the law without seeking public input. According to the OCCRP’s examination of official data, the company benefited significantly from the government’s initiative to increase domestic oil exploration by acquiring the rights to 62 of the 220 blocks that were put up for sale nationwide between 2018 and 2022.

The media organization’s article on the Adani Group, which claimed that the group family used “opaque” funds to invest in stocks, was published a day prior to OCCRP’s findings on Vedanta. Vedanta was previously involved in the Niyamgiri land dispute in the Indian state of Odisha, where thousands of local residents stopped the firm from destroying their precious land.

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