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Press Release – Chhattisgarh: 20 Gram Sabhas Demand Protection of Constitutional Rights of Adivasis

People’s Organisations appealed to the central government and parliamentarians to protect Hasdeo Arand and Dharamjaigarh forests; A delegation from Chhattisgarh met Prakash Javadekar, Minister for Environment & Forests and Jual Oram, Minister for Tribal Affairs. 

New Delhi (Press Release/14th January 2015): Over the last one week a delegation of villagers from the Hasdeo Arand and Dharamjaigarh forest areas in Chhattisgarh requested meetings with the Prime Minister, Minister of Environment & Forests, Minister for Coal and Minister for Tribal Affairs and other parliamentrians. This delegation represents the Hasdeo Arand Bachao Sangharsh Samiti and Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan. The delegation was able to meet Sh. Prakash Javadekar, Minister for Environment & Forests and Sh. Jual Oram, Minister for Tribal Affairs to discuss their concerns and also bring to their attention that 20 gram sabhas have passed resolutions against coal mining in their area in order to protect their forests and livelihoods. The delegation was also able to meet with senior leaders from various political parties.

The delegation has specifically urged the government to ensure that:

  • their resolutions are respected and coal blocks in their area are not put up for auction / allotment
  • all irregularities with existing mines (including in the grant of approvals) be taken note of and strict action be taken against the violators, this needs to be done at the earliest and before any fresh auction/allotment of these coal blocks are allowed,
  • no mining compromises bio-diversity rich forest regions of the country which constitute less than 10% of total coal bearing areas of India.
  • there should be no auction / allotment of coal mines without prior environmental clearance, forest clearance and the gram sabha consents, so as to protect these vital processes from becoming a mere “fait accompli”.

Mangal Say from Hariharpur village in Surguja mentioned “If the Government still auctions / allots mines in their region disregarding the decision of the gram sabhas, we will firmly continue to oppose it and struggle to protect our rights and interests.”

CBA

According to  Alok Shukla, convenor of Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan  “We are completely opposed to Government’s recent moves to change important legislations through the Ordinance route without following democratic consultative processes as has been the case with Land Ordinance, Coal Ordinance, Mining Ordinance, etc. Through these legislations, the Government seems to have sacrificed vital national and peoples’ interests and all environmental concerns at the altar of corporate profits”.

Twenty gram sabhas from the ecologically fragile and biodiversity rich Hasdeo Arand and Dharamjaigarh forests area in Surguja, Korba and Raigarh districts of Chhattisgarh have unanimously passed resolutions stating:

Hasdev AranyaA view of Gram Sabha Meeting

The Resolutions of Gram Sabhas 

  • They are opposed to mining in the region and will not provide consent to mining in the region. Therefore, they urge the Government not to put up coal blocks in their region for auction / allotment.
  • Their region is extremely bio-diversity rich and conserved by them since centuries. The adivasis of the region share a symbiotic relation with their forests and their entire livelihood, identity and culture is dependent on these forests. They are therefore determined to prevent any damage to their forests.
  • Prior experience from mining in their region and adjacent regions has been devastating wherein many villagers had to be displaced with limited rehabilitation, several lost their livelihoods, their forests got destroyed and their air, water and soil all has got severely polluted.
  • The process of forest rights recognition in the region remains abysmally poor with consistent violations of the Forest Rights Act. In the absence of such recognition, the rights of tribal communities will be severely compromised in the event of any mining in the region.

 About the Regions

  • Hasdeo Arand and Dharamjaigarh regions of Chhattisgarh are bio-diversity rich, dense forests spanning ~2000 sq. km. which were initially declared as “No-Go” zone for any coal mining in 2010. Such no-go areas comprised less than 8.11% of India’s total coal-bearing area as per a joint study of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and Ministry of Coal in 2010.
  • These are Schedule 5 areas where Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act 1996 and Forest Rights Act 2006 (Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act) are applicable and therefore consent of Gram Sabha is required prior to any mining in the region.
  • In Schedule 5 areas, under the provisions of the Constitution, Gram Sabha assumes special significance as not just a key stakeholder in decision-making and policy planning but also in protecting traditional adivasi livelihood, customs and identity.
  • This area is under threat due to the presence of a large number of coal blocks from the region being identified for auction / allotment under the Coal Ordinance 2014 which will have disastrous environmental and social consequences.

For more details contact:

Alok Shukla, Convenor, Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan (09977634040) and Priyanshu Gupta (09999611046) Email: [email protected]

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