PM Modi 'failed' to protect rights of tribals in Chhattisgarh: Congress

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh posed questions to Prime Minister Modi ahead of his rally in Bastar

Published - April 08, 2024 12:00 pm IST - New Delhi

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh addressing the media. File.

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh addressing the media. File. | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Congress on April 8 alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had "failed" to protect the rights of tribal communities in Chhattisgarh and asked whether he will ever meaningfully commit himself to tribal welfare.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh posed questions to Prime Minister Modi ahead of his rally in Bastar.

"The dealings of the BJP here [Bastar] have shown that their friendship with corporate cronies runs much deeper than their sense of duty to the people," he said.

"We hope that the PM can shed some light on why he has failed to protect the rights of tribal communities in the state," Mr. Ramesh said.

He claimed that the dense, biodiversity-rich Hasdeo Aranya forest, considered the "lungs of the state" are under threat from the BJP and their "favourite crony", Adani Enterprises.

"When the Congress Party was in power, we had 40 coal blocks in this forest cancelled by the Union Coal Ministry to protect the sacred forest. Since the BJP has returned, they have reversed this decision and restarted mining in the Adani-owned Parsa coal block, despite fierce protests from Adivasi groups and activists," he alleges.

Leaders of the protest point out that the destruction of Hasdeo Aranya would cause irreparable damage to the Adivasi communities livelihood, as well as severe damage to the environment and to wildlife, with a possible worsening of human-elephant conflict, he said.

"How can the PM and the BJP so callously jeopardise the well-being of the Adivasi communities of Chhattisgarh," Mr. Ramesh asked.

He said PM Modi dedicated the Nagarnar Steel Plant — conceptualised and initiated by the Manmohan Singh government — to the public in October last year with much fanfare.

"The people of Bastar hoped that this mammoth Rs. 23,800 crore plant would bring major impetus to the development of Bastar and create thousands of opportunities for local youth. In reality, the BJP government has been planning to privatise this plant since 2020, when they decided to sell a majority stake of 50.79% to their cronies," he said.

In the lead up to Assembly elections last year, Home Minister Amit Shah came to Bastar and promised that the plant will not be privatised, but the fact is that the BJP government is yet to provide concrete assurances to validate this claim, he said.

"Can the BJP show any proof that it never intended to and never will sell this steel plant to their corporate friends," Mr. Ramesh asked.

In 2006, the decades-long struggle of India's tribal communities came to an end when the Congress government introduced the historic Forest Rights Act, he asserted.

"This act grants marginal and tribal communities a path to assert their rights over the forest land on which they have been traditionally dependent. Last year, when PM Modi introduced the Forest Conservation Amendment Act, all of this progress was undone," he claimed.

Mr. Ramesh further claimed that that the new Act undermines the Forest Rights Act of 2006, doing away with provisions for the consent of local communities and other statutory requirements for forest clearance in vast areas.

"The intention, of course, is to hand over access to our forests to the Prime Minister's corporate friends," he alleged.

"Will the PM ever stop paying lip service to the slogan of Jal-Jangal-Zameen and meaningfully commit himself to Adivasi welfare?" Mr. Ramesh said and asked Prime Minister Modi to break his "silence" on these issues.

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