BHAWANIPATNA: Vedanta Aluminium Ltd’s plan to mine Niyamgiri hills got dashed on Monday with the seventh gram sabha opposing the move. The Supreme Court had ordered gram sabhas to vote on bauxite mining in the hills. All six gram sabhas – three in Kalahandi district and three in Rayagada – rejected the proposal. There will be five more such meets, but the result is clear: the tribal vote is against the project.

Phuldumer village, the scene of action on Monday, is hardly 10 km from the VAL refinery under Junagarh block in Kalahandi district. Earlier Dongria and Kutia Kondhs had vehemently opposed the mining bid in the three gram sabhas at Kalahandi’s Tadijhola, Kunakadu and Palbori villages on July 23, 24 and 25.

Fearing adverse impact of mining on their culture and religion, all 49 villagers present at Monday’s meet, said an emphatic no, said tehsildar (Lanjigarh) Kailash Nayak. Of 65 voters, 16 did not turn up. The 49 included 17 men and 32 on the distaff side. Five SC voters and 44 from ST community totted up to 49 – the largest at any sabha in Kalahandi so far. The proceedings at the gram sabha, supervised by additional district judge (vigilance), Pramod Kumar Jena, were video recorded.

Presiding over the meeting, ward member Rama Majhi said, “We survive here for the forest produce and without Niyamgiri hills we can’t live.”

On Tuesday, the tribals would air their views at Ijurpa, the last gram sabha to be held in Kalahandi where four voters are likely to attend. As Maoists are observing martyrs’ week since Sunday, the meet was held under a security blanket. Activist Prafulla Samantara, in a statement issued in Bhubaneswar, said the “tribals took the decision to protect their culture and tradition”.

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

Advertisements