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Indian 'untouchables' threatened by Michelin tyre factory

media Reuters/Regis Duvignau

French and Indian non-governmental organizations finally got the attention of the OECD in Paris last Wednesday about the construction of a Michelin tyre factory in India. They believe the plant violates the rights of a community of ‘untouchables.’

The construction of the tyre factory, one of the largest in India, began in 2010 in the state of Tamil Nadu. The creation of the industrial zone led to the destruction of the 460 hectares of forest that is a source of agricultural and pastoral activities.

According to the French environmental NGO Sherpa and Catholic NGO CCF-Terre Solidaire, losing this source will deprive the population of their main source of subsistence.

The NGOs affirmed that the area leased to Michelin is situated on a major drainage basin that supplies three natural lakes with major sources of water for the agriculture in the area.

The untouchables make up about 16 percent of India’s population. They are known as Dalits and are considered the bottom of the Hindu caste system, though there are laws now in place to protect them.

About 1500 untouchable families would be directly affected by the construction of this factory. An appeal against the state of Tamil Nadu has already been filed, along with organised protests.

“It is not acceptable that Michelin, who claims to have a great track record of social responsibility, did not attend the hearing,” said Antonio Manganella, from CCFD-Terre solidaire.

Michelin, who has already invested 600 million euros, has not commented on the situation. In January, it cut back on its factory construction in an attempt to avoid “any conflict with any community.”

The NGOs are demanding that the OECD “condemn these violations” committed by Michelin. They are also asking that an independent study be put together by the local population to assess the possible impacts of the factory.


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