Niyamgiri mining: Deo turns tough on gram sabhas

New Delhi: Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo has accused the Odhisa government of colluding with Vedanta Group to push its controversial bauxite mining project and suppressing the rights of affected Scheduled Tribes in the state.
 
He wrote a strongly-worded letter to Governor SC Jamir, on June 21, requesting him to invoke his constitutional powers to protect the tribals' interest.
 
He claimed that the state government was "treating with scant respect" the Supreme Court's order on April 18.
 
The apex court had asked gram sabhas to take a decision whether Vedanta's US dollar 1.7 billion project can go ahead in the state's Niyamgiri hills and asked the tribal affairs ministry to act as the nodal authority.
 
Deo said the state government intended to hold gram sabhas only in 12 villages.
 
"The convening of gram sabhas should not be limited to only 12 villages but cover all the affected villages in the region… Under the powers bestowed upon you under para 3 of the Schedule V to the Constitution, I urge you to kindly intervene and exercise your executive powers for the protection of tribals and marginalised sections residing in the state," he wrote to the governor.
 
Mining in the Schedule V areas, in which tribals reside and they have been given special constitutional protection, has shaken the confidence and faith of the people in our democratic system, he said.
 
He reiterated his claim that the entire project was "illegal" and said a debate was needed over the matter.
 
"Irrespective of gram sabhas' decision, it could not repeal constitutional provisions," he said.
 
Vedanta spokesperson could not be reached for comments.