Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram here on Sunday said the State government should re-consider allowing mining in Khandadhar Hills, is a reserve of nearly 200 million tonnes of iron ore.
“Khandadhar is a big repository of natural resources. The scenic place should not be destroyed for sake of iron ore mining. This is my party's stand in the State and I am also against any sort of mining in Khandadhar,” said Mr. Oram, addressing a press conference here.
The Union Tribal Minister's stance assumes significance as South Korean steel major POSCO had pinned their hopes on Khandadhar mines for securing raw material requirement for its proposed mega steel plant in Jagatsinghpur district of the State. In January 2009, the Odisha government recommended prospecting license for Khandadhar mines to POSCO-India.
“No government should exert any pressure in favour of a project which does not have the support of local people. If forcible displacement takes place in tribal areas, we will pursue that case,” he said.
Khandadhar has a scenic waterfall and the region is inhabited by the endangered Paudi Bhuiyan tribe in Lahunipara block of Bonai Assembly segment that comes under Sundargarh Parliamentary Constituency represented by Mr. Oram in the recently concluded election.
Addressing a press conference after being sworn in as Union Tribal Affair Minister, Mr. Oram said the Union Ministry is going to announce minimum support price for 10 non-timber forest produce, including tamarind, sal seed and Mohua. “If any person or government agency is found to have purchased lower than the MSP, it will be treated as criminal offence,” he said.
The Union Ministry's focus will be on health and education in tribal areas. “Tribal pockets lack adequate number of skilled doctors and health infrastructure. We will try to address these concerns,” he said.
Irrigation, livelihood development programme, education, electrification and road and railway communication in tribal areas would be a priority sector of the Ministry, said Mr. Oram.
Khandadhar is inhabited by the endangered Paudi Bhuiyan tribe
No government should exert any pressure in favour of a project: Minister