Anti-mining protesters are pinning high hopes on the applicability of Supreme Court’s directive in the Vedanta mining case in Odisha in the Fifth Schedule areas of Visakhapatnam.
Likening the situation in the tribals tracts of the district, where investment plans of Anrak Aluminium Ltd, Jindal South West Aluminium Ltd and National Aluminium Company Ltd involving an estimated Rs.25,000 crore are at stake, to that of Niyamigiri hills, they aver that the Vedanta judgment is applicable to Visakhapatnam too.
The AP government has authorised APMDC to take up mining in Jerrela and Chintapalle blocks. In response to the Vedanta judgment, the Odisha Government held palli (village) sabhas in 12 hilltop habitations in Rayagada and Koraput districts in which Dongria Kondhs, a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group, unanimously adopted resolutions opposing mining in Niyamgiri in 2013.
After unanimous resolutions, the mining proposal in the area was shelved. The Dongria Kondhs hold the Niyamgiri hill in high esteem as Niyamraja, their ‘ista debata’ who stays atop the hills. The apex court while ordering to convene palli sabhas wanted to know whether mining would be an infringement of the religious and traditional rights of the Dongria Kondhs.
“Our argument is that tribals in Visakhapatnam also worship the hills and the streams . Hence, we also do have a situation similar to Niyamgiri ,” NGO Samata’s executive director Rebbapragada Ravi toldThe Hindu on Monday.
AP Girijana Sangham leader Killo Surendra also says that the Vedanta judgment is applicable to tribals of Visakhapatnam, who are opposing to mining. In the Samata judgment delivered in 1997, the Supreme Court in the case filed against calcite mining project of Birla Periclase in Nimmalapadu area held the view that only the State, its instrumentalities or the tribals themselves forming into a cooperative have the right over mineral wealth in the forests.
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