Koraput/ BHUBANESWAR: The Centre and the state government seemed heading for a collision with the former on Thursday saying it would move the Supreme Court against the latter’s decision to limit gram sabhas to 12 villages for determining proposed mining in Niyamgiri hills.

“The opinion of the community is imperative. But the state government is conducting it in only 12 villages in violation of the SC verdict (on April 18),” Union tribal affairs minister V Kishore Chandra Deo told a private news channel on Thursday. His remark came on day the first of the 12 gram sabhas was held at Serkapadi village in Rayagada district and the local Dongaria Kondhs rejected the mining plan.

State ST & SC development minister Lal Bihari Himirika did not agree with Deo. “While conducting gram sabha the state has strictly adhered to the Supreme Court’s ruling and people openly expressed their opinions. There was no attempt on the government’s part to influence the gram sabha as alleged by certain groups,” he said and added, “The remaining 11 gram sabhas will also be conducted in the same spirit and the tribals are free to air their opinions without any pressure from any quarter. The state would ensure impartial gram sabhas.”

Activist Bhalachandra Sarangi, adviser to Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti, an organisation spearheading the anti-mining campaign, said, “The gram sabha at Serkapadi proved people are opposing mining in Niyamgiri. It also exposed the government’s claim that industrialization will bring in development to Dongria Kondhs.” The Vedanta , which wants to mine Niyamgiri, to run its alumina refiner, declined to comment.

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

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