Niyamgiri Mining Plan Gets A 12-0 Drubbing
20 August, 2013
The Dongaria tribes of Jarapa village in Rayagada district today rejected the Niyamgiri mining plan, which was conceived to secure raw material for Vedanta Aluminium at Lanjigarh, Odisha, India. 11 other villages earlier rejected the mining plans of Vedanta in similar Gram Sabhas (village councils). This is completes a 12-0 drubbing in gram sabhas held to seek a referendum on bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills. This has pushed into uncertainty the fate of Rs 5,000 crore one million tonne refinery of Vedanta Aluminium at Lanjigarh, which is struggling to stay in operation by sourcing bauxite from different places outside Odisha.
At Jarapa, 12 out of 16 eligible voters attended the meeting and unanimously voted against the mining project. The mood, ambience and outcome at this village meeting was an encore of previous 11 gram sabhas held on Niyamgiri slopes straddling across two districts of Kalahandi and Rayagada.
The writing on the wall was easy to spot at the maiden gram sabha itself, held at Serkapadi nearly a month back, when all tribal voters unanimously trumped the mining plan.
The tone was set by the Supreme Court order on the Niyamgiri bauxite mining project dated April 18. The apex court left it to the indigenous tribals to take a call on whether mining impacted their community and religious rights, especially the right to worship their Niyam raja.
Then, the state government, through its reading of the apex court order, selected 12 hill slope villages for the council meetings- seven in Rayagada district – Serkapadi, Kesarpadi, Khambesi, Jarapa, Batudi, Lamba and Lakhpadar and five in Kalahandi – Tadijhola, Palberi, Phuldumer, Ijurupa and Kunakuda. In all, 985 tribals were destined to decide the fate of Vedanta's alumina refinery.
Hundaljali, or the abode of the Niyam raja being located a convenient 10 km from Niyam Danger or the site of mining, many within Vedanta and its joint venture partner OMC, drew comfort that voting could be in favour of the project.
But the shocker came when all the Dongarias spoke in unison against the mining plan, claiming community and religious rights over the entire hill range.
In the last 10 years, the tribals have been protesting against the mining project. The unanimous voting by all the Dongarias is only the logical end to their protest. The verdict at the 12 people's courts is a victory of indigenous rights over company interests.
The company is now running the Lanjigarh refinery at only 60 per cent capacity by procuring bauxite from Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra after keeping it shut for seven months since December last year.
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