Shyam Benegal, Gul Panag abandon Vedanta film competition

MUMBAI Tue Mar 6, 2012 7:47pm IST

Bollywood actress Gul Panag poses as she attends an event in Chandigarh June 13, 2008. REUTERS/Ajay Verma/Files

Bollywood actress Gul Panag poses as she attends an event in Chandigarh June 13, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Ajay Verma/Files

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MUMBAI (Reuters) - Film-maker Shyam Benegal and actress Gul Panag have withdrawn from a film competition run by Vedanta Resources, amid protests by local groups against the company's operations in Orissa.

London-listed Vedanta has faced protests in Orissa over its bauxite mines, which local tribes say are located on a sacred mountain, in a high-profile tussle between big business and rural India.

Award-winning director Benegal and former Miss India Panag have withdrawn from the jury of the Creating Happiness competition, in which Vedanta invited students to make films in villages where the miner has a presence.

"I didn't want to be part of a PR exercise for the company," Panag told Reuters.

Vedanta declined to comment when contacted by Reuters. The miner has previously said its mine would not violate the rights of indigenous tribespeople, and that all its projects are conducted within the law and using international best practices.

"What they claim is somewhat exaggerated. Here it's not simply a growth story, we are talking about growth and development in human terms," said Benegal, who has made several films based on economic inequality and rural empowerment.

"This is a competition for students. There is no agenda. I don't think you should mix making of films and your personal views," film-maker Piyush Pandey, who is listed as the chairman of the jury on the competition website, told Reuters.

The film competition involves 114 film-makers from 21 colleges in India, who shot short films in Orissa and neighbouring Chhattisgarh, where Vedanta has projects.

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