INDIA: Vedanta’s PR campaign backfires as Bollywood celebs pull out

5 March

The Dongria Kondh reasserted their pledge never to leave the Niyamgiri Hills, at a festival in February.
The Dongria Kondh reasserted their pledge never to leave the Niyamgiri Hills, at a festival in February.
© Bikash Khemka/Survival

A bid by British mining giant Vedanta Resources to repair its tarnished international reputation has backfired after two major Bollywood celebrities withdrew from a film competition supposed to show the ‘happiness’ the company creates.

Renowned filmmaker Shyam Benegal and Bollywood actress Gul Panag were both part of a judging panel, which had until the end of this month to pick a winning film out of the 38 submitted.

The films were all shot by ‘budding film-makers’, who were escorted by Vedanta around villages where it has a presence.

The objective of the competition was to show the ‘happiness’ Vedanta brings to local communities where it works.

Vedanta’s reputation was irreversibly damaged when it ignored the rights of the Dongria Kondh tribe, whose sacred mountain it sought to mine for aluminum ore.

Due to the mounting tribal protests and international criticism of their actions in Orissa, India, Vedanta initiated a PR offensive extolling their virtues. But this short film reveals how easily their lies and manipulations can be debunked.

Gul Panag, who was crowned Miss India in 1999, was only made aware of Vedanta’s involvement when it was brought to her attention via social media.

She tweeted, ‘My bad. Just got full details. I wasn’t aware that the competition was part of Vedanta glorification/PR. Have pulled out.’ More

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