Millennium Post

Odisha announces Gram Sabha dates for Vedanta mines

Ignoring objections by the union ministry of tribal affairs, the Odisha government on Friday announced dates for conducting Gram Sabhas in 12 villages of Kalahandi and Rayagada districts to decide fate of the proposed bauxite mining for Vedanta atop Niyamgiri Hills.

‘We have decided to hold Gram Sabha in 12 hill slope villages as per the April 18 Sureme Court order. While Gram Sabha will be held between July 18 and August 19 in seven villages of Rayagada district, similar exercise will be done between July 23 and 30 in five villages of Kalahandi district,’ Odisha’s ST and SC development minister L B Himirika told reporters here.

To a question, Himirika said the state government had earlier decided to hold Gram Sabha in 12 limited villages and it would implement it. ‘We are going by the Apex Court’s order,’ Himirika said sidestepping a question on the MoTA’s objection. On 18 April, the Supreme Court order asked the state government to hold gram sabhas to decide the fate of Vedanta’s plan to mine at Niyamgiri.

‘We need at least 50 per cent attendance to conduct a gram sabha. One-third of them should be women. If quorum is not achieved, the gram sabha will be cancelled and conducted later,’ Rayagada district collector Sashi Bhusan Padhi said.

Meanwhile, Odisha’s Advocate General (AG) in a report supported the state government’s decision in 12 hill slope villages of Niyamgiri.  Earlier, Union Minister of Tribal Affairs V Kishore Chandra Deo had said that limiting Gram Sabha proceedings to only 12 villages was not in accordance with the Supreme Court order dated 18 April and directions issued by the ministry under Section 12 of Forest Right Act (FRA).

Deo had also written a letter to Governor S C Jamir seeking his intervention in the matter, saying the areas where gram sabhas are proposed to be held fall under Schedule V category.
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