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Activists posing as cleaning staff, unfurl banner on Essar House

Greenpeace activists pretending to be cleaning staff pulled the stunt on the company’s Mahalaxmi office, accusing it of trying to destroy forests and natural resources in Madhya Pradesh

Energy and steel major Essar was ambushed by NGO Greenpeace, when the latter draped the company’s headquarters in Mumbai with a banner that read: “We Kill Forests Essar.” The banner, measuring 36 ft x 72 ft, also had pictures of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Environment Minister Veerappa Moily.

The activists were protesting against the proposed destruction of forests in Singrauli district. Essar Power has been allotted coal blocks in Mahan. Pic/AFP
The activists were protesting against the proposed destruction of forests in Singrauli district. Essar Power has been allotted coal blocks in Mahan. Pic/AFP

The activists had gotten into the premises by posing as cleaning staff. The 12 climbers scaled the 180-ft high skyscraper, Essar House, in Mahalaxmi and unfurled their message for the entire city to read. Greenpeace, which works for the preservation of environments, accused Essar of trying to trespass forests in Mahan, in Singrauli district of Madhya Pradesh, for its mining project.

According to their spokesperson, Arundhati Muthu, the organisation believes in non-violence and wanted to highlight the problems the 15,000 villagers residing near the Mahan coal mines would face, if mining began. They claim about 150 species of plants, animals and birds would be affected by the project and hence, risked their lives to save them.

“We didn’t trespass their office; we had permissions from the company to enter the office. We cleaned their entire office for three to four days and on the final day, we exposed our motive,” said Arundhati Muthu.
Nearly 75 activists were detained by the Tardeo police.

“We are ready to face the consequences of civil disobedience, but we believe in non-violence and can’t allow such form of blatant killing of trees and animals because of the project,” Muthu added. PSI Thakur of Tardeo police station said, “We have detained the activists and are in the process of filing the FIR, after which the arrests will be made.”

Company speak
Essar issued a statement on its website, calling the stunt a “blatant and anarchic act of trespassing” and “anti-corporate, misleading and false propaganda.” They confirmed that the protestors had indeed gained access to the premises by posing as cleaning agents.

They also added that senior officials of the company “met those who had trespassed and in order to ensure their safety, tried to convince them to climb down.” According to the statement, the police were later called in to “protect those who work in the building and the surrounding neighbourhood.”

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