Bauxite mining threats to Adivasi's existence in AP
Government of Andhra Pradesh has been pushing the mining the bauxite deposits in Easternghats of Visakhapatnam District in a hasty and surreptitious manner to the detriment of the tribal peopleThe present Government at the Centre and the government in our State, when they came to power, have assured that the tribal peoples' right to mineral resources within the Agency areas will be safeguarded and protected. The provisions of Schedule 5 of the Constitution provide such safeguards, as interpreted clearly by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the Samata judgment. The MOU that were signed by the State government with Jindal South West Ltd on 01/07/05 and with the government of Ras Al Khyma on 14/02/2007 were violating the Samata judgment, as the APMDC is being used in a benami manner to take over the bauxite reserves existing in the agency areas to private interests.
The present situation in the agency areas of Visakhapatnam is very tense as many strong protests have taken place in respect to illegal construction of buildings and occupation of tribal land in violation of the LTR Act during the last few months. The State and central government should respect the sentiments of the tribal community and act in a sensitive manner so that the law and order situation is not destabilized by its hasty and anti tribal action. Moreover the entire tribal belt in chintapalli during the recent public hearing on 3rd October 2008 is filled with the anti naxal squad (greyhounds) created fear among the tribal people and as the literacy rate in the 66 villages is very low it is not possible to voice their opinions in a scientific and democratic manner.
The Gram Sabha is a body created by the Constitution and it is supreme in the agency areas of our state as per the PESA Act and as per the Apex Court's directions in the above mentioned Samata judgment. I am aware that no Gram Sabha has been approached with the complete details of the proposals and no Gram Sabha has given the consent for the proposed project. Therefore it is a violation of PESA provisions and the Constitution of India.
The Tribal advisory Counsel (TAC) convened in the previous government's time had considered the proposals for setting up bauxite mining, Alumina Refinery & Aluminum Smelter in the agency area of Visakhapatnam and proposed an amendment to the LTR Act of 1959 which would have disastrous effects for the tribal. The composition of the TAC in the year 2000 during the Telugu Desam government's time was different from now and therefore a TAC meeting should be convened immediately to consider the proposed bauxite mining and aluminum complexes. Clause 4 of Schedule 5 to the Constitution makes it mandatory that the government should obtain TAC's advice while taking any major decision that affects the welfare of the Scheduled Tribes in the Agency Areas. NGOs like Samata and Adivasi peoples requesting theGovt of AP to convene a meeting of the TAC and seek its views on these projects. In the absence of TAC's consent, I feel it is unjust and illegal to go ahead with the proposed projects as they stand today.
The TAC which was convened during the previous government's time initially showed hesitation to agree to bauxite mining in the Agency areas. Later, TAC had visited the NALCO bauxite mines and, based on the information made available to it at that time; it gave consent to the projects proposed. Eight years have elapsed since then and the situation in the bauxite areas of Orissa has undergone drastic changes since then.The tribals in the NALCO bauxite mining areas have since faced problems. In Orissa, new mining projects (Posco, Vedanta etc.) have been started and these have also given rise to tribal dissatisfaction. I therefore propose a visit by TAC members to all those areas namely – Damanjodi, Kashipur & Lanjigarah etc... The approval or otherwise for the proposed projects in A.P. can be considered only after studying the situation there. The Young Leader of the congress government, Mr. Rahul Gandhi has expressed his reservations about these mining projects and emphasized his support to the tribal people of Orissa.
Large area of pristine forests coming under reserve forest category will have to be cleared for the project and it is mandatory for the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to visit before the forest clearance can be obtained. No such visit has been made by the CEC appointed by the Honorable Supreme Court. I am aware that CEC has not visited the site and forest clearance is not accorded yet. Moreover the aspect of highly endangered species like the "Blewitt's Owl" has not been mentioned in the EIA documents by APMDC and the entire area from Sileru to Lambasingi, padeu to Araku & Anathagiri is a proposed "important Bird Area of the country" as per the the Orissa Bird & Bio-cultural survey in their ornithological survey of the eastern ghats (as per information of chief conservator of forests visakhapatnam obtained under RTI)
As per the MOU's signed by the state government with JSWL and RAK, a high level committee has been appointed to go into the aspects of fixing the price and royalty to the state government and the said committee has been convened as per Go.Ms.No 222 dated 13-08-08. I notice that as per the high level committee the price fixed is very nominal considering the international market rates as decided by the London Metal Exchange. The pricing formula announced by the government is more favorable to the private parties than the tribals and the government. I feel that the tribal communities or the nation will not benefit from this kind of pricing policy. So therefore the TAC has to take a decision on the above matter in the light of demand of bauxite and aluminum in the international market and the Governor's approval has to be sought.
It is also important to note that in such projects a competitive bidding procedure should be in place before according / signing any agreement or MOU with a particular company and in this case this procedure has been set aside and the government seems to have acted in a partisan manner. This compromises the interest of the nation in general and the tribal communities in particular.
The TAC minutes of 2000 during the TDP government's tenure, the members of TAC had asked specifically regarding the Rehabilitation and compensation packages offered to tribal people in other projects and also regarding the cultural specificity to be considered before giving permission to such industrial projects. In this regard I have had the opportunity to peruse the EIA of the proposed mines at Jerilla and it does not mention any such aspects. When TAC considered the employment opportunities for tribal boys and girls in the project in 2000, the situation was vastly different. During the last eight years, the number of educated tribal youth has increased thanks to the efforts of the concerned departments. As such, the projects should assure greater employment opportunities for the tribals now. If necessary, some tribal youth should be given training so that their upgraded skills may bring them greater benefit. In the present project proposals, no such assurance is available.
When TAC met last in 2000, the members were given the impression that both the mining and alumina refinery-cum-smelter projects would be located in the Agency area, thereby offering greater employment opportunities for the tribals. Now, the position has changed as the refinery-cum-smelter projects are being located outside. TAC needs to look at the project proposals afresh from this point of view.
In the TAC minutes of 10/05/00 & 24/05/00 the representative of the National Commission of SC and ST had stated clearly that the permission of the National Commission has to be obtained as per the 64th amendment of the constitution of India and no such permission has been obtained as per our knowledge. Similarly the approval of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs New Delhi also has to be obtained as in the case of Polavarm Dam project and in this case the same is lacking.
In light of all the above concerns The Political Paties and NGO's like Samata demanding to scrap the MoU's between Anrak, Jindal Companies and Govt of AP to mine the Bauxite Deposits in Traibal area of Visakhaptanm Districit. According to Ravi Rebbapragada of Samata, an NGO working for protecting tribal rights in the Eastern Ghats " the lastbut not the least in the case that the all statutory permissions are obtained in due time and the present TAC approves the proposals for mining and refining and smelting then propose that a cooperative of all the primary, secondary & tertiary affected tribal families be formed separately (e.g. The Jerilla miningaffected tribal cooperative) and a royalty of Rs.100/- per ton be levied on APMDC and the same be deposited in the account of the said cooperative. " That the tribal peoples development needs in terms of agriculture, coffee plantations, education, drinking waters needs be met from the same and the onus of developing the infra structure and maintenance of roads, afforestation and eco-restoration etc be borne by APMDC separately as per the guidelines of the apex court in the Samata Judgment " Ravi Explained.