Tribal body questions fresh bid for Gram Sabhas in Niyamgiri

Bhubaneswar: The Niyamgiri Surakhsha Sangram Samiti, a body of Dangaria Kandh tribals, and Lokshakti Abhiyan have questioned the move of the Odisha government to conduct fresh Gram Sabhas in Niyamgiri hills in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts to decide on bauxite mining in the hills considered sacred by the tribals.

In a joint press meet here, Ladho Sikaka, president of Niyamgiri Surakhsha Sangram Samiti, said when the tribals had unequivocally rejected the decision of the state government to start mining in Niyamgiri in the Gram Sabhas three years ago, why is it again trying to conduct Gram Sabhas.

“Leave alone the state government, we will not allow mining in Niyamgiri even if the Supreme Court gives permission for it. The verdict of the apex court will have no meaning. We have the right on Niyamgiri,” he maintained.

President of Lokshakti Abhiyan, Prafulla Samantara said once the Gram Sabha has taken a decision against any mining activity in Niyamgiri area, no one has the right to challenge its decision.

“If the state government wants its decision to be reconsidered through the Gram Sabha again, let it apply to the Gram Sabha so that the latter will take a decision in this regard,” he pointed out.

Asked about the decision of the state government, Steel and Mines minister Prafulla Mallick said; “We have sought the permission of the Supreme Court, which had asked the state government to stop mining activity in Niyamgiri following the decision of the Gram Sabha.”

“If the apex court gives permission, we will seek the permission of the Gram Sabha again. If it does not give permission, we will not proceed further,” he added.

Reacting to the joint press meet of the Niyamgiri Surakhsha Sangram Samiti and Lokshakti Abhiyan, the minister said there is no point in briefing the media here.

“The people have the right to take a decision on this matter. The state government wants mining in Niyamgiri for the socio-economic development of the tribals,” he pointed out.

It may be recalled that Palli Sabhas were held in 12 villages in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts in 2013 in the presence of the then Rayagada district judge Sarat Chandra Mishra in which the tribals had strongly opposed the decision of the state government to start mining in Niyamgiri.