Staff Reporter

Social activist seeks intervention of Union Minister

Exercise ruled out for extracting bauxite ore

Officials ‘ignorant’ of constitutional status

VISAKHAPATNAM: Former IAS officer and social activist E.A.S. Sarma has expressed shock over the Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation’s (APMDC) refusal to hold gram sabhas before undertaking bauxite mining in the scheduled areas of Visakhapatnam district.

Reacting to a news item published in these columns on Friday, he wrote a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Union Panchayat Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer seeking their intervention. The APMDC ruled out gram sabhas for extracting bauxite ore under the pretext that they need not be held as per the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act of 1996 for major minerals. The decision was conveyed to Samata, an NGO, recently in response to a clarification sought under the Right to Information Act.

Mr. Sarma, who is the coordinator of the Forum for Better Visakha, said the officials (even political executive) seem to be ignorant of the constitutional status of gram sabhas and, more than that, insensitive to the basic requirement in a democracy to respect public opinion.

Probe sought

“One wonders whether ours is really a functioning democracy at all,” he remarked. He said that he would be grateful if the Panchayat Raj Ministry could get the matter formally enquired into, especially as such statements from responsible officials even make a mockery of the assurances given in the National CMP on tribal rights over mineral exploitation.