The battle for bauxite mining in the Agency areas of the district and the region reached the office of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Dr. Singh called for a meeting of Ministers concerned recently in New Delhi. At the meeting on February 4 Union Minister of Tribal Affairs Kishore Chandra Deo is stated to have explained why he had taken a stand against such mining project to the Prime Minister and other Cabinet colleagues. They included Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Minister of Mines Dinsha J Patel, Minister of Environment and Forests Jayanti Natarajan and Law Minister Ashwin Kumar.
The Mines Ministry had already given its permission to the State Government, while the Ministry of Environment and Forests is in the process of clearing the proposal. Sources said that the Home Minister and Finance Minister were called for the meeting as the Tribal Affairs Minister had hinted to the Prime Minister that if mining was allowed it would alienate the tribal people in the region which may result in a major law and order problem.
The Finance Minister explained how the Centre was pumping in funds for development of tribal areas to combat the Maoist influence in the region, sources added.
Following the meeting, the Tribal Affairs Minister wrote a letter to Minister of Mines, Mr. Patel on February 10, urging him to cancel the permission given to State Government. In the fresh letter the Minister took a firm stand against mining and justified his intervention to protect the rights of the tribal people enshrined in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
He pointed out, in the letter that the agreement/ MoU entered by the State Government did not flow out of an enactment of State Legislature or Parliament and could be cancelled. The agreement was in violation of the land transfer regulations of the State Government which prohibits non-tribals from purchasing or taking on lease land in the Scheduled Areas.
The Ministers at the meeting conceded that the permissions granted by Central Ministries cannot override constitutional provisions, safeguards or negate the land laws of the State (land being a State subject), sources said. The meeting decided that the unconstitutional process that was set in motion must be undone, Mr Deo wrote in his letter.