Centre free to move SC on Gram Sabha issue: Odisha govt

Bhubaneswar: Odisha government has said that the Centre was free to approach Supreme Court over its decision to select only 12 villages of Niyamgiri hills which would hold gram sabhas that determine the fate of the proposed Vedanta bauxite project there.
 
The state government's stand, which runs counter to the Centre's view in the matter, has been communicated to the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) through a letter by the secretary of the department of Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste Development.
 
In the letter addressed to MoTA secretary Vibha Puri Das, ST/SC Development secretary Santosh Sarangi said that the state government has already consulted the law department in the matter.
 
The Odisha AG has observed in a report that holding Gram Sabhas in select Niyamgiri Hills villages spread over Rayagada and Kalahandi districts would not be in contravention of Supreme Court's April 18 order asking the state government to complete the public deliberations within three months.
 
Sarangi added in his letter that the Gram Sabhas would be conducted as per the guidelines set by MoTA.
 
Gram Sabhas in the seven villages of Rayagada district will be held from July 18 to August 19 while the remaining five villages in Kalahandi will host the councils from July 23 to 30.
 
Earlier, the MoTA secretary, in a letter to the Odisha Chief Secretary, had said that limiting the Gram Sabha proposal to only a dozen of villages would not be in line with Supreme Court orders and the directions issued by the Ministry under Section 12 of Forest Rights Act (FRA).