‘Special powers conferred by the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution should be invoked’

BJP senior leader and former Union Minister Ch. Vidyasagar Rao on Sunday demanded that the Governor E. S. L. Narasimhan should quash the government order allotting the iron ore mines in Bayyaram to Visakhapatnam Steel Plant.

He said the Governor should invoke special powers conferred by the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution to uphold the rights and interests of the tribal people of Bayyaram in the tribal heartland of the Bhadrachalam agency.

Mr. Rao, along with the BJP district president K Sridhar Reddy, and others visited Bayyaram on Sunday.

Earlier, talking to mediapersons in Khammam, Mr. Rao alleged that the State government’s decision to handover the iron ore mines in Bayyaram to the VSP amounted to violation of tribal laws concerning lands in the scheduled areas.

According to the provisions enshrined in the Fifth Schedule of the constitution and 73rd constitutional amendment, the local tribal people hold absolute rights over the lands in scheduled areas.

The landmark judgements issued by the Supreme Court in the Samatha case relating to Borra reserve forest in Visakhapatnam agency in 1997 and in respect of Vedanta’s project in Orissa State in April this year have upheld the authority of the gram sabhas over the matters concerning lands in scheduled areas, he noted.

The Governor should convene the tribal advisory council meeting, scrap the controversial GO, and ensure conduct of gram sabhas in scheduled areas in strict compliance to the stipulated norms, he demanded.

The tribal people should be allowed to wear arrows to safeguard their lands, he said.

He, however, hastened to add that his suggestion was not intended to incite violence but to enable the tribal people defend their rights over lands.

The mining activity could be taken up only by the tribal cooperative societies with financial assistance from the government as per the statutory provisions. At least 20 per cent of the revenue earned from the mining activity should be set aside as permanent fund for development of that particular tribal area, he said. Mr Rao said they would submit a representation to President Pranab Mukherjee seeking appropriate action.

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