Suspension and closure of operations in at least 128 iron ore and manganese mines following illegal mining has rendered tribals jobless which may push them towards Maoists.

“A halt to mining might push tribals towards Maoists,” said General Secretary of Keonjhar Mines & Forest Workers Union at Barbil, Maheswar Rout.

A large number of tribals in Keonjhar and Sundergarh district worked in mines for a livelihood, Mr. Rout said in a memorandum to the district collector.

As they lived close to Jharkhand, tribals could become fall prey to Maoists who were already active in this part of the state, he said in the memorandum.

Moreover, with forest produce rapidly eroding, poor tribals had no alternative to earn a livelihood.

Terming the state government’s decision of suspending or closing down iron ore and manganese mines as ‘myopic, the union observed that this would not serve any purpose’.

He said that tribals should not be punished for the fault of mines owners and the corrupt officials.