Leading Indian NGO calls for halt to mining in tribal areasPublished by MAC on 2008-09-22
Put off bauxite hearing: NGOs
19th September 2008
Visakhapatnam: Non governmental organisations (NGOs) and those opposing the proposed bauxite mining in Vizag Agency are now demanding that the proposed environment public hearing by the AP Pollution Control Board on behalf of APMDC slated for October 3 at Chintapalli be postponed indefinitely till the government places the issue before the Tribal Advisory Council (TAC).
Samata, an NGO that is in the forefront in opposing the mining, dashed letters to the President of India and state Governor, seeking them to direct local officials to postpone the hearing.
"State government has been pushing the mining proposals in a hasty and surreptitious manner to the detriment of tribals," said Mr Ravi Rebbapragada of Samata. He said that the composition of the Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) in 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 aluminium complexes. This is mandatory under Schedule 5 of the Constitution, he said.
The CPI(M) district unit secretary, Mr Ch. Narasinga Rao said that the present situation in the agency areas was very tense as many protests had taken place against illegal construction of buildings and occupation of tribal lands in violation of the Land Transfer Act during the last few months.
"Moreover the entire tribal belt in Chintapalli, the proposed site for the public hearing on October 3, is full of anti-Naxalite squads like Greyhounds, creating fear among tribal people," he observed.
He further said that the gram sabha was a body created by the Constitution and was supreme in the Agency areas as per the provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) (PESA) Act and as per the Apex Court's directions in the Samata judgment. "But no such gram sabha has been approached with complete details of the proposals and no gram sabha has given consent for the proposed project," said Mr Narasinga Rao.
"Bauxite-aluminium proposals would have disastrous effects for tribal people" - Samata
18th September 2008
Subject:- Proposed bauxite mining and alumina refinery and smelter projects by Jindal South west and Anrak Mineral's in the agency areas of Visakhapatnam: Objections regarding
1. The Samata Judgement All India Reporter 1997, SC 3297
2. The MOUs with JSWL dated 01-07-05 & RAK dated 14-02-2007
3. APMDC letter no.APMDC/IIRD/08/423 : Response under RTI about the clearance of APTAC for mining activity in V schedule area of AP
4. The TAC (Tribal Advisory Council) minutes as per the reply under RTI response of APMDC dated 20.8.08
5. The I&C.Dept G.O .Ms.No 222 dated 13-08-08 (Govt of AP) on the pricing of the bauxite by the high level committee.
6. Public hearing notification of APPCB for the proposed Bauxite mining in 4 blocks of Jerrela dated 01-09-08 (Adv. 08 in Deccan Chronicle Daily on 3rd Sep 08 )
I am the petitioner in the landmark "Samata Judgement" of the honorable Supreme Court of India delivered on 11th July 1997 (reference first cited above.) I humbly represent to you as you are the custodian of the tribal people of our country as per the Vth schedule of the Constitution of India. I herewith submit my memorandum to your good offices for prompt action.
I would at the outset bring to your notice that the Government of Andhra Pradesh (AP) has been pushing the above proposals in a hasty and surreptitious manner to the detriment of the tribal people of our state. The TAC convened in the previous government's time specifically on 10/05/200 & 24/05/2000 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 people and the said minutes of the that TAC are attached for ready reference.
The specific objection and suggestion from my side are as follows:-
1. 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. I therefore request you 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.
2. The 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. Theprovisions of Schedule 5 of the Constitution provide such safeguards, as interpreted clearly by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the Samata judgement.
3. 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 judgement, as the APMDC is being used in a benami manner to usurp the bauxite reserves existing in the agency areas to private interests.
4. 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. I feel 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 the proposed site for public hearing on 3rd October 2008 is filled with the anti naxal squad (greyhounds) creating 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.
5. 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.
6. 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 & Lanjigarh 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.
7. I have noticed that a 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, Padeeu 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)
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. I would like to point out that in 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.
12. 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.
13. 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. 14.In light of all the above concerns I demand that the proposed environment public hearing proposed unilaterally by the AP Pollution Control Board on behalf of APMDC on 3rd October 2008 at Chintapalli be postponed indefinitely till all the concerns expressed by me are dully answered and addressed.
15. Last but 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 I propose that a cooperative of all the primary, secondary & tertiary affected tribal families be formed separately (e.g The Jerilla mining affected 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 so 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 (AIR 1997,SC 3297)
I hope all our concerns will be addressed promptly and you will take appropriate action as you deem fit as the supreme custodian of tribal people of India.
Executive Director, Samata
Copy to: Copy to: His Excellency Governor of AP and other statutory authorities of the MOEF & Tribal welfare ministries