BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) today demanded immediate withdrawal of the interlocutory application filed by the state government in Supreme Court seeking a direction to conduct gram sabhas again for bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills.
Describing the state government as anti-tribal, OPCC president Prasad Harichandan alleged that it is playing with the religious sentiments of the Dongoria Kondhs and other tribals who consider Niyamgiri hills as sacred.
Criticising the move to placate the Vedanta, Harichandan asked why the government and the company are so insistent on exploiting the bauxite mines in Niyamgiri.
The state has a deposit of two million tonnes of bauxite and Vedanta can be given a mine anywhere else for its plant, he said.
Harichandan also criticised the Centre for trying to dilute the provisions of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 basing on which the Supreme Court had directed gram sabha meetings to determine whether the local tribals want mining in Niyamgiri.
As per the Supreme Court directive, gram sabhas were held in 12 villages of Rayagada and Kalahandi districts in July and August, 2013 in the presence of a district judge and senior officials of the districts.
Villagers opposed mining in Niyamgiri in all the 12 gram sabhas, Harichandan said and added that the state government had to stop its attempts to allow bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri hills.
The state Congress president said AICC working president Rahul Gandhi had announced to work to protect the interests of the tribals during his visit to Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district on March 7, 2008.
But attempts have now started again to allow mining in Niyamgiri hills to benefit Vedanta, Harichandan said and announced that the Congress will soon launch an agitation against it.
Harichandan said the interlocutory application filed by the state government in the Supreme Court on February 11, 2016 has sought an appropriate direction setting aside the order of Ministry of
Environment and Forests on January 1, 2014 by which the state II clearance for diversion of 660.749 hectare of forest land for bauxite mining in Lanjigarh in favour of Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) was rejected.
The state government has also sought the Supreme Court’s direction for fresh proceedings only for the purposes of determining whether bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills will affect the rights of the tribals and which areas should be left for carrying out religious worships.