Tribal Ministry terms forestland diversion for Essel Mining ‘invalid’

Official points out irregularities and asks Collector to withdraw recommendation

Updated - May 19, 2016 11:33 am IST

Published - March 26, 2014 12:01 pm IST - BHUBANESWAR:

Taking strong exception to the hush-hush manner with which approval of gram sabha was attempted to be taken for forestland diversion in favour of Essel Mining and Industries Limited in Keonjhar district, Union Tribal Affairs Ministry termed the transfer of forestland to the company as ‘invalid’.

Union Tribal Affairs Secretary Hrusikesh Panda during his recent visit to Keonjhar district pointed out the irregularities and asked district Collector to withdraw the recommendation.

Mr. Panda had called for the records after receiving complaint relating to improper implementation of Forest Right Act at Jalahari, Bholbeda, Jajanga, Jorudi, Banspani and Khuntpani coming under Joda-Badbil Tahsil for taking gram sabha’s approval for diversion of 342.602 hectare of forestland of total 456.1 hectare of land in favour of Essel Mining group.

The Union Secretary noticed blatant violation of FRA after going through records. In his tour diary, copy of which is in possession of The Hindu , Mr. Panda mentioned, “the notice which had been issued showed that a meeting had been convened to obtain approval of Gram Sabha for transfer of forestland to one Essel Mining and Industries Limited.”

“In the same meeting, forest rights were to be ascertained. The minutes of the meeting show that in the same meeting it was decided that the villagers have no forest rights. It was also decided that they had no objection to transfer of forestland to the firm. This is in complete violation of FRA,” he observed.

The Union Tribal Affairs Secretary maintained, “the process envisaged under FRA has to be completed before the question of transfer of forestland for non-forest use is considered under the Forest Conservation Act. Therefore, the transfer of forest to the firm is invalid.”

Tribal rights activists had earlier alleged that gullible and ignorant tribals in the area were threatened to put their signatures on documents which were processed for forestland diversion in favour of the mining company. They had pointed out that analysis of records of rights in six villages Jalahari, Jurudi, Bholbeda, Banspani, Khutpani and Jajanga coming under mining area showed most of the tribal and other villagers were landless.

The community land available in the concerned villages in fact belongs to the community and the land should have been distributed among the landless and homestead less people of the villages in priority basis rather than transferring them to the outsider private company, said activists who closely monitor the moving forward of forest diversion proposal.

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