11-Nov-2011

After Trade Unions, NGOs

From the corporate paper: NGOs vs India Inc: How are companies gearing up for the face off?.  Some nuggets:

"With trade union leaders, one could at least talk," says Gulabchand. "They stood for the interest of the workers and their cause was always clear. Medha Patkar, on the other hand, refuses to sit down at the table and talk. She wants to destroy Lavasa and every other such project. She's an anarchist." 
That is the CMD of Hindustan Construction Company saying that.  The job of trade union leaders is to talk with management.  Otherwise how could they solve problems?  But  why would Medha Patkar sit down at the table to talk with him if she is taking up the issue of violation of environmental laws? Or is it something else he is implying?  
"The corporate sector needs to press for more transparency in the NGO sector. They should publish their accounts and state their sources of funding. Secondly, Indian NGOs need to have more focus. Right now they are rent-a-cause activists, with no deep knowledge or experience in any one issue." 
Well, well, well.  Shoot the messengers.  Next up, it is Monsanto's turn:
"From NGOs, our interactions have widened to universities, academia, media and end-user industry, like poultry feed, starch industry and ginning mills. Relationships are built on creating awareness and we realise that Vandana Shiva was successful because she had an ignorant audience. We are building an ecosystem of knowledge to counter the next tirade, if any," says Bhatnagar. 
Italics mine.  In other words, she was just exploiting ignorant people for her own nefarious reasons and Monsanto whose very existence depends on selling GM seeds is doing the righteous thing.  Then, this story whose point escapes me from Vedanta:

When Felix Padel, English anthropologist-activist and great grandson of Charles Darwin touched down to espouse the cause of East Indian tribals in 2003, Jitu Jakasika, then all of 15, joined the chorus. A Dongria-Kondh tribal from Lanjigarh in the Kalahandi district of Orissa, Jakasika was entranced by Padel's vision of a denuded community if Vedanta were to be given a free run to mine bauxite from the nearby Niyamgiri Hills. The only school-goer from his village, Jakasika became a conduit convincing his villagers and community about the pitfalls of bauxite mining and even set out to gather support across the political spectrum. Gradually, global non-profits such as Amnesty International and Survival International made a beeline to him, as did Action Aid and the local NGOs.  
But innocence also has its intransigent heroes. All along, Jakasika had a burning desire to be a civil servant. He had friends from his community serving Vedanta and in 2006-07, and on their request, he went to the nearby NALCO bauxite mines, for a demo. He subsequently took his villagers to the NALCO mines and got so convinced about the 'misguided path' he had taken, that he met up with Sanjay Kumar Pattnaik, a senior vice-president in Vedanta. When he asked Jakasika what he wanted to do for his people, the reply was: "I want education so that I can work for my people; so that there will be 100 people in the community like me." Vedanta executives immediately took Jakasika to Bhubaneshwar, where he's now pursuing a Bachelors' in Business Administration sponsored by the same company he once loathed. 
 Corporates should learn that they can't do as they please rather than blame the NGOs.

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