Tribal MLAs demand GS in more villages, seek Guv intervention

Bhubaneswar: Opposing the Odisha government's decision to hold Gram Sabhas in only selected 12 villages to determine the fate of bauxite mining on the Niyamgiri Hills for Vedanta, four Congress tribal MLAs today sought Governor S C Jamir's intervention and demanded it also be held in about 200 other villages.
"We would like to draw your attention that there are 103 villages in Rayagada district and 102 villages in Kalahandi district which depend on the Niyamgiri hills for forest rights, religious and cultural rights," the four MLAs led by senior Congress law-maker Dambarudhar Ulaka said in a memorandum to Jamir.
"Therefore, all should be given a chance to give their views as per the Supreme Court's order," they said a day after the state government held first Gram Sabha at Serkapalli village in Rayagada district.
Ulaka, who represented the Bissam Katak assembly seat from Rayagada district, alleged that the state government's action of limiting the Gram Sabha to 12 villages was a violation of the April 18 Supreme Court directive and the guidelines of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
He said the left out 205 villages, inhabited by Dangaria Kandha, Kutia Kandha and Jharania Kandha, had sentimental attachment with the Niyamgiri hills and worshipped it as Niyam Raja, their presiding deity.
Urging Jamir to invoke the special powers and responsibilities bestowed upon him, the MLAs urged him to issue direction to the state government to make fresh notification for holding Gram Sabhas in all the tribal villages in and around Niyamgiri hills.
Earlier, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs had also objected to the state government limiting the Gram Sabhas to 12 villages.
Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo had yesterday said that the ministry was contemplating to challenge the state government's act of limiting the Gram Sabhas to only 12 villages.
The Supreme Court on April 18 had directed the state and the central governments to facilitate Gram Sabhas in tribals villages and take their opinion whether mining should be allowed on Niyamgiri.