Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, June 8:
Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram today said he will strongly defend Odisha’s interests vis a vis the Polavaram projectbe, which is being planned in neighboring Andhra Pradesh.
He, however, blamed the government for not putting up a strong fight over the issue and not treating it with the seriousness the matter deserved.
“Being an MP of the state, I will fight for the interest of the state. I will extend full support to whatever stand the state government takes over the Polavaram project issue if it is in the interest of Odisha ,” said Oram at a press conference here.
He also said he will not hesitate to protest any project by the state or Central government, if it involves the displacement of tribal people.
Replying to a question on allocating mining lease of Khandadhar mines to Posco, he said his stand against mining in Khandadhar remains unchanged. “My stand against leasing out Khandadhar mines remains unchanged. I will protest mining activities there. I am against the project that involves grave damage to the environment and causes displacement,” said the Union minister.
Oram said that he will pursue the matter with the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) and see it does not come under any pressure to accord environment clearance to the project, because it is not environment friendly and against the interest of local tribal people.
Revealing the five point agenda that would be accorded top priority by his ministry( Tribal Affairs) in the coming day, he said issues relating to education, health, communication, electrification and irrigation facilities in the scheduled areas would get the maximum attention. These are also the primary focus of the NDA government, he said.
Oram, who reviewed various development schemes and programmes meant for the tribal people in Odisha during a meeting with state government officials on Saturday, said atrocities against the tribal people and girl students in residential schools have been on the rise in the state and that needs to be dealt with in a resolute manner.
The Union minister also informed that a minimum support price policy will be implemented for 10 minor forest produce so that the tribal and poor people in the country, who collect these items from the forests are not cheated or forced to sell these items at throwaway prices.
Speaking on Tribal Land Right Act, he said the ministry will review the issues relating to complaints that the land belonging to the tribal people have been grabbed by mines and various projects across the country.
It is to be noted here that land under the ownership of the tribal people can not be alienated without the prior permission of the concerned state government.