Around 8,000 tribals, who would be directly affected by the proposed mining of bauxite in the 1212 hectares in Jerrila and Chintapalli Reserve Forests for which the government issued orders for diversion of forest land are up in arms.
The opposition and resentment with the political leadership is widespread. Men, women and youth are clear in their stand that they would not allow mining of bauxite in their areas. Significantly everyone is aware of the issues involved.
Men and women are unanimous in their call to the government to withdraw the GO 97 of November 5.
“Any move to mine bauxite would be met with an armed opposition,” the youth and women said and to prove their seriousness they attended the public meeting organised at Jerrila Panchayat carrying their traditional arms.
“The protest against the move to mine is not new, but the government officials have been carrying on with their exploration of the place and now the GO has been issued, we will not allow them to bring down these mountains,” Chinna Abbai, an elderly tribal said giving a voice to the tribals at the public meeting.
“The government has been able to carry on with the exploration and also pass the GO on mining only because some of the tribals have sided with the political leaders. We will not allow the tribals working against the interests of fellow tribals to continue. We will drive them away,” another tribal Ashok said.
The tribals, who had come from all the 73 habitations that would be directly affected by the first phase of mining, agreed with each statement being made against the government move, reflecting the fact that they were aware of the fact that their lives and livelihoods were at stake.
Once mining starts it would affect the flow of water to Sileru and that would not only affect the lives of tribals in the Agency area but also the people living downstream, Adapa Vishnumurty, resident of Jerrila, said.
“The political leaders are not interested in development of tribals, they are only making statements for public consumption. We do not trust them,” Korra Ganjibabu of Boddalagondi in Jerrila panchayat said.
“The then Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy sold the mining rights to these areas. How can we trust the YSR Congress not to allow the bauxite mining,” he added.
He buttonholed Paderu MLA Giddi Eswari with a pointed question: “what guarantee is there that you would not go ahead with bauxite mining if your party comes to power in the next elections and you become a Minister?” The MLA gave a solemn promise to continue with her stand opposing any move to take up mining in Agency area.
Mining for bauxite will lead to displacement of adivasi communities like the Khond, Nooka Dora, Bagata and Manne Dora. Some of these tribes are identified as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.
Further, some of them would be suffering multiple displacement as they had moved into the hills of the Visakha Agency due to several projects in the erstwhile Koraput district of Odisha.
They would again be forced to abandon a habitat that gave them land for farming, adequate water and forest for sustenance, Human Rights Forum general secretary for AP and Telangana V.S. Krishna said demanding that the government withdraw its move to mine bauxite in the Agency areas.