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    Default RTI query exposes violations by Balco in Chhattishgarh

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    An RTI query has revealed that the Vedanta-controlled Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd (Balco) blatantly violated norms in Chhattisgarh by not seeking "mandatory" permissions from the municipal corporation for its completed and under-construction projects, including a couple of major thermal power plants in the industrial town of Korba.

    Documents made public by the Korba Municipal Corporation (KMC) show that Balco was served several notices to halt construction work at a number of its projects over the past few years. But the company did not adhere to the notices and continued without the necessary permits.

    In fact, Balco completed construction of a 540 MW plant, a case against which is pending in the court, and began work on another power project of 1200 MW, which is now 80 per cent complete. Moreover, no permission was reportedly taken for the chimney of the 1200 MW plant that collapsed in September 2009, killing 46 workers.

    Shockingly, even though the judicial investigation into the mishap is still on, Balco started constructing another chimney for the same power plant, that too close to the accident site.

    KMC documents state that "eleven notices, the last one on 3rd October, 2011, were served to Balco for stopping the construction work of 1200 MW plant", but the company didn't comply or respond.

    The RTI query also exposes that Balco began work on at least 10 major projects without seeking permission from the KMC. Most of these 'suspect' projects are now in the final stage of completion.

    KMC commissioner R Ekka claims some action has been initiated against projects for which no permission was granted. However, he was not willing to speak further on the issue.

    "When the corporation is quick to dismantle any illegal construction in its jurisdiction area, acting on the provisions of the Municipal Act, what then is preventing the KMC from moving against Balco?" asked Amarnath Agrawal, an RTI activist.

    A journalist based in Korba added: "Earlier this year, a helpless KMC had even pleaded with higher authorities to lodge an FIR against Balco, but so far, nothing has happened."

    Balco, on its part, refuted all the charges. "We have undertaken nothing illegal in any of our constructions. This is an attempt by some vested interest to defame our organisation. We have entered into an agreement with the government and are working accordingly," Balco's spokesperson Binod Kumar Srivastawa said.

    Balco is co-owned and managed by the London-based Vedanta Group, a global mining and metal giant. The Government of India holds a 49 percent stake in the company.



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