Deo questions MoU between OMC, Vedanta on Niyamgiri mining

New Delhi: An MoU between an Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) and Vedanta has come in for questioning from the Tribal Affairs Ministry, which has contended that it is against the letter and spirit of the Constitution and its provisions.
 
"I think having MoU with Vedanta itself was wrong because it goes against the letter and spirit of both Article 244(1) and provisions of Schedule V (of the Constitution)," Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo told reporters.
 
The MoU between Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) and Vedanta was signed in 2003 for mining in the tribal-dominated Niyamgiri forest areas of the state.
 
The Minister questioned the very basis of formation of the state-owned mining corporations as quite often states sell shares in these firms and the partner firms, mostly belonging to private sector, benefit as a result of their association with such firms.
 
"This is against the provisions of the constitution," he said, adding disinvesting shares of such a company to a firm, not owned by tribals, generally results in surreptitiously subverting and undermining the sanctity of the Constitution and safeguards guaranteed by it.
 
The Minister claimed mining did not improve financial or living conditions of the people in these areas as development here was never inclusive.
 
"Development doesn't mean mining ore and exporting to China. Making a few people or a few companies affluent at the expense of the marginalised people, is not development," he said, adding people were the owners of natural wealth while states and the Centre were only custodians.
 
"It's not for one government to plunder natural wealth.State owning doesn't mean that state is empowered to do whatever it wants to do. In any case they can't flagrantly and blatantly violate the norms and go ahead with the MoUs," Deo said.
 
Deo also wrote a letter to Odisha Governor S C Jamir and asked him to "to do the needful so that constitutional provisions were adhered to both in letter and spirit."
 
Earlier, he had written letters to the Governors of nine states having areas notified under Schedule V and asked them to invoke their powers, under the provisions of Article 244 read with provisions of Schedule V to the Constitution, securing the rights of scheduled tribes and forest dwellers (the most marginalised section of the society).
 
In his reply to Deo's letter, Chattisgarh Governor Shekhar Dutt sought clarification on powers of Governor and said Additional Solicitor General had filed a reply in Bilaspur High Court in a matter of unconstitutional functioning of the tribes advisory council that he is bound to function on the advise of the Council of Ministers.
 
Clarifying the position, following consultation with the Attorney General, he said "special powers given to Governors, vis-a-vis Schedule V itself, vouchsafe the fact that the Governors are not bound by the aid and advice by the Council of Ministers in matter that are specified in Schedule V to the Constitution of India."
 
He said ASG concerned had erred on such a critical legal matters and he was taking the matter with the Law Minister to look into the matter to take a corrective measures.