State asked to place the issue before gram sabha

Activists opposing proposed mining of Niyamgiri Hill for bauxite ore exulted, opposition political parties hailed the court verdict and the State government gave guarded response after Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that gram sabha was to take a final call on the mining issue.

The Apex Court directed the State government to place the issue of proposed mining before gram sabha and the gram sabha would take a decision within three months. Union Ministry of Environment and Forest should take a final decision on the grant of Stage II clearance for the bauxite mining project in the light of the decisions of the gram sabha within two months thereafter. Reacting on the verdict, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said, “We will wait for Supreme Court verdict.”

“The Apex court has recognised the supremacy of gram sabha -the lowest unit of democracy in India to be the right place to decide the fate of such projects and proposals though this could have been done much earlier,” said Prafulla Samantra, president of Lok Shakti Abhijan and a petitioner of the case. “Gram sabhas should be conducted in all affected places, and just not the ones prescribed by administration. Vedanta Group might take advantage of the ambiguity as the Court has not made it very clear,” Mr. Samantra said.

He demanded that international communities and rights groups within the nation should be allowed to keep watch on the process in Niyamgiri as Vedanta might make all kinds of unethical efforts to intimidate Dongarias with the help of a friendly administration and the police. Bhakta Charan Das, Congress MP of Kalahandi, said, “it is moral victory for Dongria Kandha, who have been strongly opposing mining in Niyamgiri hill range.”

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