Like its predecessors, the ninth gram sabha will decide proposed bauxite mining in Odisha’s Niyamgiri hills for Vedanta Group’s alumina refinery at its slope on Thursday rejected the proposal asserting the villagers’ religious and cultural rights over the hills.
The gram sabha was held at Lamba village in Rayagada district, more than 500 km southwest of Bhubaneswar. All the 38 voters, including 20 women, passed a resolution seeking a ban on mining in the hills.
Rejection by an overwhelming nine out of 12 gram sabhas selected by the Odisha government has dashed Vedanta’s hope for getting bauxite from Niyamgiri hills.
The state Congress said the outcome of the gram sabhas had exposed the the Odisha government which was allegedly in cahoots with the private company to plunder the mineral resources despite people’s opposition.
“The state government had submitted false affidavits saying that the proposed mining had popular support to mislead the central government and Supreme Court. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik should not only apologise to people but also introspect whether he has the moral authority to continue in office,” Congress spokesperson Narasingha Mishra told reporters in Bhubaneswar.
The Odisha government had decided to hold gram sabha in 12 villages in Niyamgiri hills spread over Rayagada and Kalahandi district between July 18 and August 19 as per a Supreme Court order on April 18 that said the decision of the gram sabha was crucial on the issue of whether mining should be allowed in the hills – home to nearly 10,000 endangered Dangria Kondh tribals, besides other tribal groups.
The proposed mining in Niyamgiri hills is vital for Vedanta Group, which has signed a MoU in 2004 with the Odisha government. The MoU includes supply of 78 million tonnes of bauxite by the state owned Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) to Vedanta’s alumina refinery at the hills’ slope in Lanjigarh in Kalahandi.
Not being able to mine the hills due to stiff protests from tribals, who revere the hills as their god ‘Niyamraja’ and problems in getting clearance from the Union ministry for environment and forest, the OMC had moved the Supreme Court.