Describing the Supreme Court’s judgment on mining of bauxite in Niyamgiri wherein the decision has been left to the gram sabha as a path-breaking one, Union Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo has, however, said the apex court has not gone into the provisions of Schedule V and Article 244 of the Constitution which override all statutory provisions, including panchayat (extension to Scheduled areas) Act (PESA).

 In a letter to Odisha Governor S C Jamir, Deo has said that the framers of the Constitution had incorporated adequate safeguards under the provisions of Article 244 and Schedule V for administration in scheduled areas.

 “Hence these constitutional safeguards are integral for tribal welfare and these cannot for any reason whatsoever be bypassed or allowed to be bypassed,” Deo  said and added that this position will be brought to the notice of the Supreme Court by the Tribal Welfare Ministry.

 Stating that governors have a crucial role as custodians for welfare of tribals and other inhabitants in Scheduled V areas, Deo referred to a letter written by him to all governors in this context on April 4, 2013 emphasising on their power.

 “I would like to once again reassert the primacy of the Governors’ role in Schedule V areas as envisaged in Article 244 and Schedule V of the Constitution of India,” Deo said and requested Jamir to do the needful so that the constitutional provisions are adhered to both in letter and spirit.

 The Union Minister has also brought to the notice of the Governor a trend in recent times where shares in government-held companies were disinvested. Once disinvestment takes place, the need for adherence to constitutional safeguards by such companies will not get diluted, but thrown to the winds, he said and added that circumventing the constitutional provisions through disinvestment is being done in a discreet manner through Cabinet decisions, he said.

 In this context, the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) and Vedanta for mining bauxite from Niyamgiri is crucial.

 “I wish to bring this to your notice as it has become a trend amongst the State governments to create so-called State government-owned companies to circumvent the constitutional safeguards,” he said and warned that this threat looms large and this practice needs to be stopped.

Courtesy: The New Indian Express