State law dept to submit views on Niyamgiri bauxite lease in 2-3 days
The Odisha law department will submit its views on the Supreme Court (SC) order on Niyamgiri bauxite mining in 2-3 days, paving the way for the government to organize gram sabhas that will decide if mining activity can take place.
The opening of the Niyamgiri bauxite deposits is considered to be crucial for Vedanta Aluminium Ltd's (VAL) one million tonne alumina refinery at Lanjigarh. The refinery, which since inception, has run on bauxite obtained from external sources, has been shut since December 5 last year for want of the raw material.
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"We have got the views of our counsel on the Supreme Court order. The law department will study the views of the counsel and also examine the apex court's order before submitting their views", said chief secretary B K Patnaik.
Asked on the villages where the gram sabhas will be conducted, he said, “That is not clear now. A decision can be taken after the law department submits its views which is expected in 2-3 days."
Since the state SC & ST department is in a quandary citing lack of clarity in the apex court's order on conduct of gram sabhas, it has sought the legal department's views on the matter.
The state government seems to have swung into action after the Union ministry of tribal affairs shot off a letter to the SC & ST department, urging the department to do the needful in compliance with the Supreme Court order.
The ministry has asked the department to issue advertisements in local newspapers informing all tribals and traditional forest dwellers in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts to file claims of religious and cultural rights, along with the individual and community rights under Forest Right Act (FRA).The ministry has urged the state government to display thenotification regarding holding of palli sabha along with the details of the SC order in all villages in the two districts irrespective of their proximity from the mining site.Besides, copy of such notification should be sent to all the civil societies and NGOs that are active in these two districts, so that complete transparency is maintained in the identification of claims, it said.
In its verdict on the Niyamgiri bauxite mining lease case, a three-member jury of the SC consisting of Justice Aftab Alam, Justice K S Radhakrishnan and Justice Ranjan Gogoi gave direction to the Odisha government to place issues of community, individual as well as cultural and religious claims before the gram sabha so that it can decide on them within three months.