Ramesh asks Odisha Govt, Vedanta to spare Niyamgiri Hills

Bhubaneswar: Asking Odisha government and Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) to spare Niyamgiri Hills for bauxite, Union Minister Jairam Ramesh today said the new land acquisition bill has given legal rights to tribals and farmers to reject or accept any project.

"I would like to tell Odisha government and Vedanta to spare Niyamgiri Hills. I have been saying them since three years. But, they challenged my order in the Supreme Court which ultimately asked the state government to take opinion of the local tribals. All the Gram Sabhas (Palli Sabha in Odisha) have rejected the mining project," Ramesh said.

He was addressing a press conference here on the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2012, commonly known as the land acquisition bill.

The Rural Development Minister said he as Environment and Forest Minister had in August 2010 suspended forest clearance to the mining project. "If Odisha government is sincere to arrange raw material for Lanjigarh refinery, they should look for alternative sources instead of Niyamgiri," Ramesh said.

Asked whether the bauxite of Niyamriri would remain unexploited, Ramesh said, "If the Palli Sabha says to go for it, then only bauxite can by explored from Niyamgiri Hills."

Dubbing the old Land Acquisition Act as "anti-democratic", he said the new bill will ensure that there is no forcible land acquisition.

While Describing the Land Acquisition Bill as historic and revolutionary, the Union minister said that provisions have been made to provide more compensation to the people.

Farmers and landowners would be paid up to four times the market value for land acquired in rural areas. In urban areas, they would get two times the market value. .