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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Rayagada, Jan 7:

The residents of Parsali panchayat – inhabited by particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) Dongaria Kondhs  – under Kalyansinghpur block near Niyamgiri in Odisha’s Rayagada district have unanimously decided to select their candidates instead of electing their representatives in the upcoming three-tier panchayat polls scheduled to begin from February 13 across the state.

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While majority of the welfare schemes are yet to reach them, the aboriginal tribals have formed a committee so as to pick their representatives who will act as an intermediary in bridging the gap between them and the government.

Scores of Dongaria Kondhs belonging to 36 villages under the panchayat held a huge gathering to select their sarpanch, ward members and samiti members. The villagers univocally selected Paika Sikaka from Lamba village as the sarpanch candidate and Sanari Sikaka from Parsali village as panchayat samiti member nominee.

“The villagers of Parsali panchayat have selected me as sarpanch candidate. I thank them for nominating me,” sarpanch candidate Paika Sikaka expressed.

Notably, Lado Sikaka, president of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS) had launched an awareness campaign to nominate their candidates rather than electing candidates, as they feel that they haven’t reaped the benefits of electoral politics.

“If we won’t unite, we won’t be able to avail any benefit from government. If we select our candidates, then we will get the benefits. For this, we have selected two representatives,” Lado Sikaka said today.

NSS, a resistant group, had been spearheading agitation against Niyamgiri mining to feed Vedanta’s alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district.

Worth mentioning, the Dongaria Kondhs have been vehemently opposing Vedanta’s bauxite mining plans in Niyamgiri hills which they consider sacred as they worship Niyam Raja.