"Mining has only resulted in displacement of lakhs of tribal families instead of creating jobs for them"

Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Sunday urged the governments in the mineral-rich Naxal-affected States to focus on development of agriculture and implementation of rural development programmes instead of focusing on mining to create employment.

Addressing a gathering of Dongaria and Kutia Kandha tribal groups on the foothills of Niyamgiri hills in this tribal-dominated block of Kalahandi district, Mr. Ramesh underlined the need for prioritising agriculture and rural development saying that mining in the country’s mineral-rich States such as Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand had only added to the people’s miseries. Mining had only resulted in displacement of lakhs of tribal families instead of proving to be beneficial for them, he added.

Mr. Ramesh, who launched an initiative for distribution of Rs. 75,000 each among 2100 families belonging to the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups in villages in and around Niyamgiri for building Indira Awas houses, was welcomed with the slogan, “Jairam Ramesh Zindabaad, Vedanta Murdabaad,” as he reached the venue of the meeting. He, however, clarified that he had nothing to say about the recent closure of the 1 million tonne per annum capacity alumina refinery of Vedanta Aluminium Ltd. situated in the locality as the matter was pending before the Supreme Court. As the Union Environment and Forest Minister, Mr. Ramesh had on August 24, 2010, rejected the forest clearance for bauxite mining in Niyamgiri for sourcing ore for Vedanta’s refinery and also halted the company’s refinery expansion work.

Mr. Ramesh said his visit to Kalahandi was part of his initiative to visit all 82 Maoist-hit districts spread over 9 States by the end of March this year to expedite implementation of rural development schemes.

While opposing bauxite mining in Niyamgiri, Mr. Ramesh said he was not opposed to Vedanta’s sourcing bauxite from alternative sources. “Why is the company so keen to mine Niyamgiri, when the bauxite reserve there would fulfil just about 4 per cent of its total requirement for its refinery?” he queried. Mr. Ramesh also came down heavily on the Maoists by expressing serious concern over the incident at Latehar in which explosives had been kept inside the body of a jawan whom they had killed. The Maoists, who had lost their humanism by their barbaric act at Latehar, were spreading their activities in newer areas of the country by falsely advocating the cause of the tribals, Mr. Ramesh said, while stressing the need for making the development process tribal-centric in order to prevent tribal youths from joining the Maoist ranks.