BHUBANESWAR, July 23: Even as three of the 12 scheduled Gram Sabhas have unanimously rejected the proposal to mine the Niyamgiri hills for bauxite, BJP vice president Jual Oram has urged the Centre to hold Gram Sabhas in all villages of Niyamgiri hills.
“The Odisha government has notified to hold grama sabhas in only 12 villages whereas more than 120 villages in the area have significant Kondh (tribe) population. I have requested the Union Minister of Tribal Affairs to take steps for holding gram sabhas in all these villages,” said Oram, who met Union Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo in New Delhi Monday.
Stating that the order of Supreme Court should be honoured, the BJP leader said the opinions of the villagers need to be taken into consideration as they and their rights will be affected by mining activities in the area.
He also urged the Governor of Odisha to use his special powers under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution to protect tribal interests in the scheduled districts of the state.
“If the government does not take care of the tribal interest, the situation may get out of hand as the area is infested with left wing extremism,” he said.
On April 18, the Supreme Court had left the decision on mining in the hills with gram sabhas in villages where the religious and cultural rights of the tribals could be affected by mining. Besides, the gram sabhas were also mandated to take a call on their rights under the Forest Rights Act (FRA).
While the state government decided to hold meetings in 12 villages between July 18 and Aug 19, the Tribals have already rejected the mining proposal in Niyamgiri hills in the three Grama Sabhas already held, the last of them today.
A few days ago, a Congress delegation had met Governor SC Jamir seeking conduct the Sabhas in 120 villages. The Niyamgiri Surakshya Samiti (NSS), which has been spearheading agitation against Vedanta, has decided to hold Gram Sabhas in 112 villages, which will be sent to Supreme Court and Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).