Odisha set to hold Gram Sabha in Niyamgiri area

Bhubaneswar: Odisha government said it was all set to hold the much-awaited Gram Sabha (village level meeting) at Serkapalli village, one of the 12 hill slope villages, in Rayagada district on Thursday, official sources said.

"The district administration of Rayagada has made all required arrangements including deployment of security personnel at Serkapalli village. The Gram Sabha will be held as per the direction of the Supreme Court order," said Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste Development secretary Santosh Sarangi.

The proceeding of the Gram Sabha will be video recorded and the district judge of Rayagada will be present to over see that people express their views freely.

The Gram Sabhas in Niyamgiri Hill area is significant as such an exercise will be held for the first time in the country where the local people have been given authority to decide whether to allow bauxite mining.

The people through Gram Sabha will claim their cultural and religious rights vis-a-vis the proposed mining project.

The Apex Court on its April 18 order had directed the state government and the Centre to facilitate conduct of Gram Sabhas in villages to take views of the local tribal people whether to allow bauxite mining atop Niyamgiri Hills.

The local people were opposed to mining activities at the hill top. They claimed that tribals presiding deity Niyam Raja was atop the Hill which would be affected due to mining.

According to the Supreme Court order, the state government identified 12 hill slope villages as the places to hold Gram Sabhas within three months of the Supreme Court judgement.

While five villages were located in Kalahandi district, rest seven villages come under the jurisdiction of Rayagada district.

The state government has meanwhile received claims, individual, community and cultural and religious, before holding the Gram Sabhas in 12 hill slope villages of Niyamgiri Hills in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts to decide the fate of the proposed bauxite mining from atop the hills for Vedanta, official sources said. .