Having its two prestigious projects — Posco Steel and Vedanta bauxite mining — almost blocked, MPs of ruling BJD in Orissa on Wednesday protested against environment minister Jairam Ramesh accusing him of displacing tribals by approving Polavaram Dam in Andhra Pradesh.
Apparently to hit Ramesh’s image of being the custodian of tribal rights, the BJD MPs led by party leader in Lok Sabha A.S. Sethi said the Polavaram Dam would lead to tribal groups losing their land as against environment ministry’s claim that no forestland will be submerged.
“Thousands of tribals will be displaced. UPA is anti-tribals,” Sethi said, while countering the environment clearance granted on July 28, which said that the Andhra Pradesh government have assured that no forest rights need to be settled under the Forest Rights Act.
“The approved relief and rehabilitation package would be implemented by the state in a time-bound, transparent and pari passu manner,” the environment clearance had said, while putting a condition that no land in Orissa and Chhattisgarh will be submerged.
Even though the project will have no impact in Orissa, the BJD MPs termed Ramesh’s policies anti-tribal. But their protest was limited to a demonstration outside the house. The MPs are likely to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Vedanta and Posco issues.
What has apparently irked Orissa government is the accusation made by an environment committee headed by former IAS N.C. Saxena that state government officials have colluded in violation of the Forest Rights Act in Nyamgiri, where bauxite mining is to be done. “The District Collector had submitted a fake certificate that consent of gram sabhas had been taken regarding bauxite mining,” Saxena said.