Sat, 2006-05-27 , By Raymond R Kharmujai – Asian Tribune
Shillong, 27 May, (Asiantribune.com): Lafarge- the multi-national cement giant has come under severe criticism for its gross violation of international customary laws and human rights laws in Meghalaya, North East India.
The cement through its hundred per cent subsidiary Lafarge Umiam Mining Limited (LUML) in India has indulged in "gross violation" of the law of the land by mortgaging tribal land at Nongtrai and Shella to six foreign banks "for its own benefit".
The LUML undertakes project for mining, crushing and export of limestone and shale from its limestone quarry at Nongtrai and Shella in Meghalaya to its cement plant at Chhatak, Sunamganj in Bangladesh.
The influential Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) and the Meghalaya People’s Human Rights Council (MPHRC) had lashed out at the cement giant company for mortgaging of tribal land by its hundred per cent subsidiary LUML.
"We strongly condemn the activities of Lafarge and its unauthorized encouragement of future intrusion by Bangladesh. Lafarge has illegally trespassed the principles of international agreements", said the Secretary General of MPHRC, Dino DG Dympep.
Terming the mortgaging of land to six foreign bank as Lafarge’s “nefarious act”, the MPHRC said the French cement Company had indirectly sold the land of the Khasi people to Bangladesh at "throwaway price".
"India has ratified international human rights treaties and has a moral obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the rights enshrined under the convention”, he said appealing to people to oppose the Lafarge's move, as it was an injustice to indigenous people and threat to the country's security along the international border.
The powerful KSU has also come out openly against Lafarge for mortgaging of tribal land to six foreign banks.
“They have denied the rights and livelihood of the local people affected by limestone mining by the Company,” said president of the influential Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) president Samuel Jyrwa said.
The KSU President have also cautioned the ruling Congress led MDA government to protect the rights of local indigenous people and to ensure that the law of natural justice prevails otherwise the Student body would take its own course of action for the overall development and protection of our people from the exploitation of this Company.
However, the Meghalaya State government has assured that not an inch of land would go to a foreign individual or group even if the Lafarge defaulted to pay the loan taken from foreign banks.
“A multinational company cannot mortgage land to foreign financial institutions just like that. This is true that they have used the land as collateral for securing funds from those institutions. But that does not pose any threat to the interests of the country and they have done it according to the law of the country," said S K Tewari, Meghalaya state Chief Secretary.
"No individual or group can simply go and take possession of land in some other country. Even if Lafarge defaults, not an inch of land would go to a foreign individual or group. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the law of the country have enough provisions to protect the interests of the local residents," Tewari added.
Lafarge is set to start sending limestone from its mining sites in Nongtrai and Shella to Chattak in Sylhet district of Bangladesh for cement production. The limestone would be sent to the company's plant at Chattak through a 17-km- long belt conveyor.
– Asian Tribune –