Sarpanches of four panchayats in Niyamgiri hills area have decided to convene gram sabha meetings in most of the villages of their area on their own regarding proposed bauxite mining project of Vedanta Alumina Limited (VAL) in Niyangiri hills.

Their efforts have received support of All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha (AIKMS) as well as other organisations and activists opposing mining in Niyamgiri area. AIKMS national committee member Bhala Chandra Sarangi said,

“The deadline of the Supreme Court to hold gram sabha in Niyamgiri area regarding proposed mining project of VAL will expire on July 15. It is quite unlikely for the State government to hold gram sabha meetings by that deadline.”

Moreover, the State government has decided to have gram sabha meetings only in 12 villages. As per the proposal of the State government, gram sabha will be held in seven villages of Rayagada district and five villages of Kalahandi district. 

The decision of the State government has been protested by Dongria Kondh tribals of the area as well as different organisations and political parties.

There is a demand that gram sabha be held in all villages of Niyamgiri hills area.

The four panchayats, sarpanches of which are now planning to call up gram sabha regarding mining project of VAL include three panchayats of Rayagada district namely Munikhol of Muniguda block, Kurli of Bisamkatak block, Parsali of Kalyansinghpur block and Trilochanpur panchayat of Biswanathpur block of Kalahandi district.

According to Malati Kadraka, sarpanch of Munikhol block, the sarpanches of these four panchayats, including her met in a meeting recently where they decided to call up gram sabha regarding the issue on their own as the sarpanches had the right and power to do so.

It may be noted that out of the 12 places chosen by State government to hold gram sabha, eight are located in Parsali and Trilochanpur panchayats.

The activists opposing bauxite mining in Niyamgiri area have continued to allege that State government has intentionally chosen only those villages which are within proposed mining area although effect of mining would be on the ecosystem and biodiversity of whole Niyamgiri hills area.

“As per the plans, the four sarpanchs will pass a resolution at panchayat meeting regarding proposal to hold gram sabha to discuss about mining project of VAL and will hand over the resolution to panchayat secretaries for issue of 15-day notice for holding the gram sabha meetings in every village of these panchayats,” said Mr Sarangi. The district judges of Kalahandi and Rayagada who have been assigned to monitor the holding of gram sabha would also be invited to these gram sabha meetings called up by the sarpanchs, Mr. Sarangi added.

Several organisations, including All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha, are supporting the sarpanches who are against bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri area in the State