Protests outside a Vedanta alumina refinery in Lanjigarh turned deadly on Monday, as a police officer and a protester were fatally injured in the course of demonstrations at the plant.
“Two people have died – one of our Odisha industrial security force personnel and another one from the public,” said senior police officer Gupteswar Bhoi to Reuters.
A representative for the protesters said government security forces launched an attack on the assembled demonstrators without provocation. However, officers of the Odisha Industrial Security Force countered that they had indeed been provoked by rock-throwing rioters and responded appropriately.
According to protester Maheswar Pati, among the assemblage were individuals from a trio of neighboring villages who say they gave up a portion of their land in exchange for jobs at the 6 million metric ton per annum plant.
Per Vedanta’s statistics, 85 percent of the plant’s 3,000 workers are from within the state of Odisha.
A secondary issue behind the unrest was the departure of a local employee according to an anonymous police source who spoke to Reuters. The employee was not fired, however he left voluntarily after being investigated by the company for issues involving compliance.
The protests have proven to be disruptive according to Vedanta’s chief of its aluminium business Ajay Dixit, as protesters have blocked rail lines and set fire to parts of the plant.
“As soon as the bauxite supply resumes, we will be able to operate at a normal capacity,” promised Dixit. He did not offer a time frame for full resumption of operations, however.
Vedanta representatives did not comment regarding the protesters’ grievances, but they said that they hoped to come to an agreement via discussions and not violence.
Dixit also told Reuters that the slain employee was not a current or former Vedanta employee, as he was employed by a contractor that operates at the site.