Jan 132014

kondhas tribal people

The Indian environment ministry has finally rejected Vedanta Resources’ plans to mine Niyamgiri, Orissa for bauxite. After many years of campaigning, this is amazing news for the Kondhas, three of India’s most isolated tribal groups, who live in approximately 200 villages located across the hill range.

The largest of these tribes, the 8,000-strong Dongria Kondh, has dwelt there for centuries. Along with the other two, the Kutia Kondh and Jharania Kondh, its people enjoy an intimate relationship with the Niyamgiri Mountain. For years, though, they have lived under the threat of losing their homeland to the mining company.  Continue reading »

Aug 192013

kondhas men on return from tribal meetingnews update: ”India’s Dongria Kondh tribe has overwhelmingly rejected plans by notorious British mining giant Vedanta Resources for an open-pit bauxite mine in their sacred Niyamgiri Hills, in an unprecedented triumph for tribal rights.” Survival International (19 Aug 2013)

On 18 April 2013, the Indian Supreme Court rejected an appeal to allow Vedanta Resources’ to mine the Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa for bauxite. Instead, it said that local tribal councils themselves should decide within three months whether or not the project should go ahead.

Two months later, it seems that bureaucracy and legal loopholes are threatening to skew the process.  Continue reading »

Jun 212013

DSC00170The news coming out of India about the widespread flooding is devastating. ActionAid reported earlier today that “The situation here is catastrophic. People’s houses and animals have been washed away and many roads have simply disappeared. Our partners in the region have reported that nearly 5,000 people are still missing in Kedarnath, presumed dead.”

The international development charity highlights the fact that the impact of the massive dam building programmes across the state has compounded the disaster.  With a lack of trees and other vegetation (due to prolific deforestation) to hold the earth, the mountain slopes have become destabilised, causing the land to slip into the rivers and reservoirs. Continue reading »

Apr 262013

samveda 1Earlier this week The Guardian reported that polio has almost been eradicated across the world. The total number of reported cases worldwide fell last year to an all-time low of 223.

Until 2002, India had the highest number of polio cases  per annum. Now it’s not had a confirmed case for two years. The disease is now only found in three nations: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

“The battle against polio is an extraordinary example of what can be achieved when we work together,” says Kofi Annan in The Guardian report.  “This terrible disease, as my generation knows well, once cast a shadow over childhood across the world. Before the development of an effective vaccine nearly 60 years ago, it paralysed and killed up to half a million people every year.” Continue reading »

Apr 192013

kondhas tribal people

Since travelling to Niyamgiri, Orissa, in December 2008, I have been following the Dongria Kondh tribe’s fight against Vedanta Resources’ plans to mine its land for bauxite.

It’s good news, therefore, that the Indian Supreme Court yesterday (18 April 2013) rejected an appeal to allow the company to mine the Niyamgiri Hills. Instead, it has said that local tribal councils themselves should decide within the next three months whether or not the project should go ahead.

Amnesty International  described yesterday’s decision as “a landmark victory in recognising indigenous rights in India”. Activists from Foil Vedanta and other grassroots campaigners celebrated in London, but they also suggested that the next stage of the process should be independently overseen as it could be “wide open to abuse by Vedanta officials and state police.” Survival International also expressed a note of caution, stating that “there are serious concerns over the pressures that might be heaped on the community during this crucial time.”

Continue reading »

Jan 012013

I’ve recently published a new and updated edition of Rising from the Dust ~ India’s Hidden Voices on Amazon’s Kindle. As well as including updates on some of the original stories, the new edition provides links to other relevant news stories, publications and online material released since the book was first published in 2008.

It’s received some great 5* reviews on Amazon, so please check it out.  If you don’t have a Kindle, you can still read it on your phone, computer or tablet with one of Amazon’s free reading apps.

The 2nd paperback (2011) edition can be purchased in the UK from Waterstone’s or worldwide online.  Here’s how.

Update 16 February 2013: It’s also now available on the Barnes & Noble NookKobo and for the Apple iBook.  The Sony Reader edition should be available soon.

When I originally wrote Rising from the Dust I wanted to offer an honest portrayal of my experiences of when I first went to India several years ago. In so doing, I presented difficult, unpalatable issues for debate. A few years on and, despite the incredible pace of change in India in recent years, many of these issues remain deeply pertinent. But it’s not a heavy read, as you’ll discover… Continue reading »