Dangaria tribes meet guv, demand gram sabha in 104 villages

​Bhubaneswar: A delegation of Dangaria Kondh tribes today met Odisha Governor SC Jamir and registered its opposition to the state government's plan to hold gram sabhas in only 12 villages of Niyamgiri Hills to arrive at a decision on proposed bauxite mining for the Vedanta refinery.
 
"We urged the governor to intervene in the matter as the state government has already asked district administrations of Rayagada and Kalahandi to hold gram sabha in the 12 villages," said Kumuti Majhi, the president of the Niyamgiri Surakshya Samiti (NSS), the apex body of the agitating tribals.
 
Majhi, along with others, told Jamir that all tribals who have a sentimental attachment with Niyamgiri Hills should get a chance to share their views on the bauxite mining proposal.
 
"NSS demands gram sabhas in all the 104 villages spread over Rayagada and Kalahandi districts," Majhi told reporters after meeting the Governor.
 
Majhi also said that the local tribals have no faith in the state government which they alleged was working in the interests of Vedanta.
 
Earlier, the Union ministry of tribal affairs (MoTA) had also objected to the state government's decision to hold gram sabhas in only 12 villages.
 
In a letter to Odisha chief secretary BK Patnaik, MoTA secretary Vibha Puri Das had said that limiting the number of gram sabha meetings was not in accordance with the Supreme Court order.
 
"The list of villages where rights of the forest dwellers are guaranteed under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) or where cultural and religious rights are likely to be affected cannot be arbitrarily decided by the state government," Das had said in the letter.
 
"It is to be decided by the people… so that no genuine gram sabha which has a legitimate claim is left out of the process," the letter added.
 
When contacted, Patnaik said: "The state government is examining the MoTA letter. We will take a decision on holding gram sabha at Niyamgiri Hills after examining all angles."