New Delhi: Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has opposed the Forest Advisory Committee recommendation to divert over 500 hectares of land in Saranda forest division of Jharkhand for iron ore mining. He said this will negate all that has been done in the region in the last one year.

“Over the past year, I have been at great pains to counter Maoist propaganda that the Saranda Development Plan is a ploy to benefit private mining interests. This FAC decision is a huge setback and very retrograde. I am confident a larger and more sensitive political view will be taken on its recommendation,” Ramesh said.

Sources in the minister’s office hinted that Ramesh could take up the issue with the prime minister.

Saranda is part of the core area of Singhbhum Elephant Reserve, India’s first elephant reserve. The forest, spread over 850 sq km, was for over a decade a stronghold of Maoists before it was cleared in 2011.

Ramesh, meanwhile, has been pushing for effective implementation of the Saranda Development Plan, a combination of security-oriented and development-focussed approach launched in January 2012. It covers around 7,000 households. Ramesh has consistently opposed giving fresh mining leases in Saranda, especially to private miners.

Public sector Steel Authority of India Limited is the only major firm mining in the area and was allowed to expand in 2009 by the Environment and Forests Ministry, then led by Ramesh. The Indian Express had reported Thursday that the FAC had recommended that Jindal Steel & Power be Read more