Staff Reporter, The Hindu, June 11, 2013
The State government continues to face widespread criticism over selection 12 villages for conducting of gram sabhas that would decide fate of bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hill.
Prafulla Samantra, an original petitioner of the case on which Supreme Court directed to hold gram sabhas for settlement rights under Forest Rights Act, on Monday wrote to Chief Secretary Bijay Kumar Patnaik alleging dilution of Apex Court order.
“The Apex Court verdict has been clearly ignored by the ST and SC Department of the State government as there has been an arbitrary decision while selecting 12 villages for conducting Gram Sabhas for which no convincing reason has been mentioned,” Mr. Samantra said.
He also charged that the State was trying to spread reign of terror in Niyamgiri Hill range before conduct of gram sabhas.
“Since a fake combing operation is going on in the area by security forces with the help and support of Vedanta, an atmosphere of fear and intimidation is prevailing over there which may badly affect the conduct of Gram Sabhas.
A couple of days back security forces allegedly fired at a group of young tribal children who were playing in the hills and one was reportedly killed. If such a situation continues no Gram Sabhas could be conducted in a fair way,” Mr. Samantra further alleged.
He urged the Chief Secretary to take urgent steps so that Gram Sabhas would be conducted in all affected places, and just not the ones prescribed by the administration.
The petitioner also requested the government to involve him in all the processes leading to conduct of gram sabhas as per Apex Court order.
Recently, Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs had told the State government that selection of 12 villagers for conducting gram sabhas was not in accordance of Supreme Court order.
MoTA Secretary Vibha Puri Das in a letter said the ministry was in receipt of copies of several claims under Forest Rights Act for various rights including religious and cultural rights claimed over Niyamgiri forests and sacred areas from villages over and above the 12 villages selected by the State Government.