Tuesday, July 30, 2013


The Pioneer, July 30, 2013
Tuesday, 30 July 2013 | DIGAMBARA PATRA | in Bhubaneswar
Recently, the State Government has recommended to the Central Government for establishment of four Government medical colleges at Balangir, Koraput, Baripada and Baleswar.
Expansion the SCB Medical College, VSS Medical College and MKCG Medical College is also praiseworthy. Similarly, AIIMS has already started at Bhubaneswar. There is a plan for ESIC medical college at Bhubaneswar and another of its branch at Rourkela. MCL is establishing a medical college at Talcher, while NTPC and Nalco are respectively planning to establish medical colleges in Sundergarh and Koraput, respectively. A plan was there to expand the Capital Hospital in Bhubaneswar to a medical college.
Excluding the Central University of Koraput, the State Government has not yet established any university in KBK. On the other hand, the National Law University was established at Cuttack and other State Government sponsored universities are located in various locations in the State, such as the Sri Jagannath Sanskrit University at Puri, the Utkal University of Culture at Bhubaneswar, the Ravenshaw University at Cuttack, the BPUT at Rourkela, the OUAT at Bhubaneswar, the North Odisha University at Baripada, the Fakir Mohan University at Baleswar, so on and so forth.
KBK region comprises 30 per cent of State’s area and 20 per cent of its population. However, it does not have the same share in higher educational institutes as enjoyed by other parts of the State.
Based on population and current number of State universities, at least three fully State universities should be established in the KBK region.
Unfortunately, the policy makers of the State Government have continuously ignored the genuine right of the backward and poverty-hit region.
This discrimination is despite all the political claims about the need of special attention for all round development, mainly related to health, education and infrastructure in KBK.
Bhawanipatna is located far away from the State capital and centrally located in KBK. Both Balangir and Koraput have been recommended for Government medical colleges. Thus a Health University in Bhawanipatna should be set up to serve the State as well as health service in the backward region.
Sardar Raja Medical College, Jaring got approved to take students in this academic year. However, this is a private medical college and poor people and poor students may not get benefited from it. Many local people and intellectuals are still skeptical about the quality, service and future of this institute.
At the same time, Bhubaneswar and surrounding region have already many private medical colleges and hospitals, which are not hindering the Government to establish new institutions in Cuttack-Bhubaneswar region. A private medical college in Rourkela is also not hindering to establish new Government medical college in Sundergarh.
Therefore, existence of a poor quality private medical college like Sardar Raja Medical College should not undermine requirement of a Government Health University in the region.
There has been a growing demand to either establish a fully Government medical college by upgrading the district headquarters hospital and regional diagnostic center in Bhawanipatna or take over Sardar Raja Medical College completely as a Government medical college. The issue has come many times in the State Assembly and a motion was also brought by the opposition parties to approve it. Unfortunately, the ruling party did not approve it. Many petitions and letters have been submitted to the Chief Minister both from individuals and through organisations in this matter. But no positive action has been taken towards the grievance.
Keeping in view all the local demands, the need of health in the State, as well as equal distribution of universities in Odisha, a health university is required in Bhawanipatna.
(The writer, a non-resident Odia, teaches at the Department of Chemistry in American University of Beirut in Lebanon.) 

Monday, July 29, 2013

After Niyamgiri setback, Vedanta may ask Odisha govt for alternate mining site

firstpost, July 29, 2013
By Prince Thomas
Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Alumina, a unit of the London-listed Vedanta Resources, might ask the Odisha state government for an alternative mining site after its proposed mining project in the Niyamgiri hills range suffered a fresh setback today.
The seventh village, of the total 12, today rejected the mining proposal through a Gram Sabha hearing. Five more villages are still to hold Gram Sabhas but with the majority verdict in, the billionaire might now find it difficult to go ahead with the original plan.
Under Supreme Court’s direction the state government is conducting Gram Sabha meetings in 12 villages of two districts – Kalahandi and Rayagada. The objective is to understand the opinion of natives on a proposed mining project that the London-listed company wants to do along with the state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation. A local unit of Vedanta Resources is partnering OMC.
The two companies, through a joint venture, want to mine on one of the peaks of the Niyamgiri hills. The bauxite will be used by Vedanta’s alumina refinery that reopened recently after being shut for almost a year due to supply constraints in sourcing the raw material. But the natives have argued that the hills are spiritually important for them and any kind of mining will destroy it. The company though contests this and says that the “actual” mining site is 10km away from the “holy hill.”
Once hearing in all the 12 villages are over, independent observers appointed by the state government will write to the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The Ministry then has three months to submit its report to the Apex Court. With the popular opinion against the project, it wont be surprising if the Ministry recommendation goes against the company.
The last two weeks have seen six of the villages unanimously turning down the proposal. The clearance is important for the company to get Stage 2 clearance for the mining proposal. A Stage 2 clearance would grant the mining rights to the Vedanta Resources-OMC combine.
A raging debate has now ensued in the state over the conduct of these meeting. According to Supreme Court regulations, none of the stateholders – including Vedanta Resources and the state administration – should be present during the meetings and try to influence the natives’ opinion. But a local Congress (I) MP Bhakta Charan Das was present in one of the meetings. Interestingly he also heads Green Kalahandi, a NGO that has been protesting the project. It has also been alleged that many other NGOs, including international ones, have been present in these villages and might have influenced the natives.
Amnesty International’s Ramesh Gopalakrishnan is just back in London after spending 10 days in Odisha. “While I was present in the meetings, I didn’t speak. The independent observers, who are judges appointed by the state administration, had no problems with my presence,” he told me over the phone.
He is now getting ready for Vedanta Resources’ AGM on 1st August in London. As in previous AGMs, Agarwal can be sure to face more protests as he conducts this year’s meeting. Many of the international NGOs have already started mobilizing men and resources for a noisy showdown. Proxy shareholders will be in presence to ask the metal king uncomfortable questions. The proceedings in Odisha will only add to heat up the environment.
It is also important to remember that the central Ministry for Environment and Forest had cancelled the stage 2 clearance of the project soon a visit by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to Odisha. The Saxena Committee, appointed by the Ministry, had made adverse comments on the project. The Gandhi scion had famously promised that the party will take care of the natives’ interest. With the next general elections nearing, cancellation of the mining project will show the party in a good light. Compared to that, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, also leader of BJD that is opposed to the Congress, is banking on these high profile projects to cement his ‘development’ plank. Unfortunately, another key project, that of Posco, has been a non starter. And ArcelorMittal recently shelved its planned project to build a steel plant in the state.
The next twist in the story now will be if Agarwal is able to execute his Plan B – an alternate mining site in Odisha.
This story was first published in Forbes India

Alleged murder arrested in Dharamgarh

Reported by Sri Anshuman Patra
Dharitri, July 29, 2013

Farmers Congress at Bhawanipatna on 31 July 2013: Bhakta demands converting Govt. (A) College Bhawanipatna to a state university

Sambad, July 31, 2013

Mines as JVs among locals and miners is the solution for Niyamgiri

Economic Times, July 27, 2013
On Thursday, Palbari, a village in Kalahandi district of Odisha, became the fifth one to say no to mining of bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills. The Dongria Kandha tribals who live here claim to worship the hills and have stoutly opposed any proposal to mine the area for minerals.
Kalahandi is a rather special case: some years ago,Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi made a dramatic appearance here and promised to behave as the sipahi, or foot soldier, of tribals in Delhi. Niyamgiri is not an isolated case. Ever since land acquisition became an issue that could topple state governments, people have started protesting the takeover of their land for industrial or commercial use.
The issue is sharpest when it comes to mining, because India's mineral resources are heavily concentrated in areas inhabited by tribals, among India's most neglected people. And Schedules V and VI of the Constitution say that all rights, including mineral rights, in tribal land belong to indigenous people.
For India to grow, we cannot afford to leave minerals under the ground. So, an equitable and fair solution has to be found that gives incentives for people to give up land for mining. That can only happen if a significant part of the gains from mining go to people affected by the activity.
One draft of the new mining law proposed exactly this: a district mineral foundation, where a part of the revenues from mining should be parked, for the benefit of the local population. This revenue-sharing proposal with local people, apart from royalties that are shared with the state, should be made into law.
Miners should also form management committees and invite locals on board to run the ventures that operate the mines. Participation in management plus a share of revenue are the way ahead.
This will be in line with a Supreme Court judgment which ruled that minerals belong to the people who own the land and not to the government. Once this landmark judgment is incorporated as policy, mining and the development of the areas where the activity is undertaken will become a joint venture between locals and miners, instead of the adversarial relationship that exists today.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

As Vedanta's fate up to single vote, doubts on fair play

Business Standard, July 28, 2013
Niyamgiri Gram sabhas turning arena of influence?
When senior  Member of Parliament  was spotted at the dais of a gram sabha held at Palberi, a village in Odisha's abjectly poor Kalahandi district last Thursday, it created ripples. This was no routine meeting, since it was held under the direction of the and its outcome being crucial to determine the fate of's Lanjigarh alumina refinery, the only visible sign of industrial activity in the district.

The presence of Das, a political heavyweight from Kalahandi, has again revived the debate over holding such  without bias. The debate started from the maiden gram sabha itself, held on July 18, when scores of supporters of Amnesty International and Suraksha Samiti (NSS) surrounded the makeshift camp hosting the meeting.

"Gram sabhas are held in the state in line with the guidelines laid down in the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, and also the Odisha Gram Panchayat Act, 1964. The gram sabhas for Niyamgiri are special as they are done under the Supreme Court's direction. We have spelt out that such meetings need to be free from any kind of bias or influence," says a senior government official.

The state's tribal affairs secretary, Santosh Sarangi, said, "We have nothing to comment on the gram sabha conduct or its outcome after a district judge has certified the proceedings. After receipt of the all the palli sabha proceedings, we will simply send it to the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF). The ministry, based on the voting at these palli sabhas, will take a call on whether bauxite mining will be allowed or not."

The state government had decided to hold palli sabhas in 12 villages - seven in Rayagada and five in Kalahandi district -along the Niyamgiri hill slopes to decide the fate of a bauxite mining project on the hill top.

According to a senior forest department official, vote by a majority of the gram sabhas, with each village considered a single unit, will determine the fate of the mining project. This implies, if seven out of 12 villages oppose mining on Niyamgiri, the project is nixed.

"Since six palli sabhas have already unanimously passed the resolution opposing bauxite mining, the collective view of one more village is going to be crucial. That way, the fate of the mining project will hinge on the collective vote by a majority of the 12 villages," he said.

The district judges of Rayagada and Kalahandi have been nominated by the Odisha High Court to oversee the gram sabha proceedings and certify they were held without any influence.

At the behest of these judges, the meetings are to be initiated by the head of the forest rights committee or the respective ward member. All the registered voters of the village attending the meeting are given an opportunity to air their views, which are duly recorded.

Besides deliberating on already submitted claims on individual, community or religious rights, the gram sabhas are also free to entertain fresh claims at the spot council meetings.

The voters will also indicate their decision individually by raising their hands and their signatures are to be recorded.

Then, a collective resolution signed by the presiding ward member is to be submitted to the district judge who, in turn, will forward it to the state tribal affairs department.

The palli sabha resolution along with the audio and video recordings of the proceedings are to be sent by the state forest department to the MoEF.

The ministry is also to be informed on steps taken by the state government to place all issues of forest rights and religious rights before the palli sabhas.

According to the amended Odisha Gram Panchayat Act-1964, a quorum is achieved if half of the registered voters turn up for the meeting.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act says the gram sabha will initiate the process of determining the nature and extent of forest rights, receive and hear the claims, prepare a list of claimants and maintain a register containing details of such claimants.

So far, tribals of six villages - Serkapadi, Kesarpadi, Kunakudu, Palberi, Tadijhola and Batudi - have unanimously voted against the bauxite mining project and passed resolutions to this effect.

Only two teachers for 200 students in Kutru school in Dharamgarh sub-division

Reported by Sri Anshuman Patra
Dharitri, July 28, 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013

5th Grama Sabha too object mining Niyamgiri hills

The New Indian Express (Bhubaneswar), July 26, 2013
Another gram sabha met on Thursday, but the verdict was the same. Like four previous villages, Palbari of Kalahandi district too has said a strong ‘no’ to mining in Niyamgiri hills.
A small Dongria Kandha village with 15 voters, Palbari is the fifth and third in Kalahandi district side of Niyamgiri where gram sabha was held as per schedule. Palbari village is located under Lanjigarh block’s Trilochanpur gram panchayat.
On Thursday, 14 voters (seven male and an equal number of female) turned up. The voters asserted their right over Niyamgiri claiming that it is important for them on socio-economic and religious grounds and no company should be allowed to mine bauxite in Niyamgiri.
Additional District Judge-cum-Vigilance Judge of Kalahandi Pramod Kumar Jena was the observer of the gram sabha.
Lok Sabha member from Kalahandi Bhakta Charan Das, who was also present, said the gram sabha was conducted as per provisions of law and without any influence.
“Niyamgiri spreads across 240 sq km area covering 112 Dongria Kandha and the tribals worship Niyamgiri as their protector.
The tribals were very clear in the gram sabha about their opinion against mining in the hills,” he said.
The area comes under Schedule V of the Constitution and Odisha Government should not have gone for mining proposal in Niyamgiri, he added.
“The BJD Government claims to be pro-tribal, but why is it so insistent on mining in Niyamgiri hill despite such strong and emotional protest from the tribal inhabitants,” he wondered.
A good number of anti-industry activists also attended the gram sabha at Palbari on Thursday.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Kalahandi tribals say no to Vedanta Aluminum Limited again

The Times of India, July 25, 2013
BHAWANIPATNA: The second gram sabha at Kunakadu in Kalahandi district on Wednesday was a repeat of the first at Tadijhola with 21 villagers rejecting Vedanta Aluminum Limited's (VAL) bid to mine Niyamgiri Hills in one voice.

The 21 voters, all belonging to Scheduled Tribes, argued that mining at the hills would negatively impact their life and impinge on their cultural and religious rights. Among them 12 were wome. One man was absent. Kunakadu is situated about 18 km from Lanjigarh where VAL has its alumina refinery. Around 10 families reside in the village.

Ward member Sulochana Goud began the proceedings of the meeting in the presence of additional district judge (vigilance) Pramod Kumar Jena and tehsildar (Lanjigarh) Kailash Sahu. "We won't support mining here," said Goud.

"We worship Niyamgiri and revere it like Jagannath in Puri. Bauxite mining will harm our religious sentiments," said Tangru Majhi.

A woman voter, Rale Majhi, added, "We will never part with our land. Allow us our peace."

The villagers also denied having sent two community claims by post to the district administration and demanded that these be cancelled. "They objected to discussing the two claims in gram sabha," the tehsildar said. But he could not name the villagers, who supposedly made the claims.

Following a Supreme Court directive on April 18, the state government invited fresh claims under Forest Rights Act, 2006, within six weeks of the notification for gram sabha.

Activists of adjoining village and members of NGOs were also present at the gram sabha, which concluded peacefully amid heavy security. Two gram sabhas in Rayagada district had also voted against mining.

The third gram sabha in Kalahandi district will be held at Palobori on Thursday. "Fifteen voters, eight women and seven men, are likely to attend the meeting," said BDO (Lanjigarh) Prabeer Kumar Nayak.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Lepra India, WODC to set up eye hospital in JV

Economic Times, July 23, 2013
BHAWANIPATNA (ODISHA): A new eye hospital would come up at Junagarh in Odisha's Kalahandi disrict in a joint venture between Western Orisha Deveopment Council (WODC) and Lepra India. 

The foundation stone for the eye hospital was laid at Junagarh by WODCChairperson Padmini Sekhar Deo today in presence of district collector Bijay Ketan Upadhyay and member of Lepra India Prof Radhamohan. 

Lepra India would bear 80 per cent of the project cost with WODC's contribution being rest 20 per cent. 

Radhamohan said the proposed hospital would take about an year for completion. However, it would start functioning from tomorrow in the existing building of Lepra India with eye testing and treatment of the patients

Emerging Varsity award for CU of Odisha

The New Indian Express (Bhubaneswar), July 23, 2013
The Central University of Odisha has added a feather in its cap by bagging the ‘Emerging University of the Year in Tribal Areas’ award recently.
 The award, instituted under Study World Annual Excellency Awards, was received by Vice-Chancellor of the University Surabhi Banerjee from Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor recently.
Veteran journalists Karan Thapar and Nalini Menon and other noted media persons were present on the occasion.
 The Central University of Odisha was selected as the ‘Emerging University of the Year in Tribal Areas’ in the opinion poll conducted by the organisers and on the recommendation of the jury.
The University formed in 2009 under the Central Universities Act, 2009 is presently conducting Master’s programme in eight subjects.
Research programmes have also been introduced from the upcoming academic session in five centres of the University.
The academic programme will also begin in the new campus of the university at Sunabeda. Courses in teacher education, education technology, healthcare and a school of law will also be introduced by the Central University at Koraput in the academic session of 2013-2014.
CUO will begin admissions this year to various courses under its newly opened school of Education and Education Technology.
 The courses include Masters in Education Technology and one-year BEd and two year MEd courses.
It has already conducted three Convocations in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Eminent social thinker of Odisha Annapurna Moharana was conferred degree of Honoris Causa along with eminent scientist Prof Bikash Sinha and Prof Anil Gupta in 2012.
Noted social thinker Tulasi Munda was conferred  degree of Honoris Causa in 2013.

Fate of those who determine fate of VAL Lanjigarh

Sambad, July 22, 2013

Second gram sabha also rejects VAL's plan of mining in Niyamgiri hills

Economic Times, July 23, 2013
By Nageshwar Patnaik
BHUBANESWAR: Four days after Dongria Kondhs of Serkapadi village rejected bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills, 33 of 36 villagers, including 23 women, of Kesarpadi in Rayagada district on Monday opposed mining in the hills, dealing another blow to Vedanta Aluminium's plans.

Gram Sabhas will be held in 10 more villages in both Rayagada and Kalahandi districts and most likely all these village councils would reject the mining proposal, a source said. The Dongria Kondhs once again made it clear that if the government uses armed force to evict them to facilitate Vedanta's bauxite mining at Niyamgiri Hills, they would rather prefer to die fighting.

However, a fresh wave of controversy has enveloped the process, raising doubts about its fairness.

Many suspect that the Dongria Kondhs are being influenced by foreign-aided non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and some "questionable" elements to speak against mining in the region. The suspicion draws credence from the fact that while 36 tribals were present at the meeting, over two hundred NGO activists were seen around the venue.

Besides, the open admission by Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS) chief Bhalachandra Sarangi that the organisation has run mock gram sabha before the second meeting on Monday also creates room for suspicion that the Kondhs who attended the first meeting might have been influenced. The activists had virtually laid siege to both the gram sabha venues. "The villagers appeared frightened to talk to journalists. It seemed that they were tutored to convey just one message - that they consider the entire mountain range as sacred. To the specific question of how mining would affect Hundaljali, their sacred hill top 10 km away, all the eleven speakers simply said that they consider the entire hill range as sacred although they worship in their own village," Lanjigarh Vikash Parishad (LVP) president Sridhar Pesnia on Monday told ET.

LVP has been supporting the mining project and its beneficiary Vedanta's alumina refinery for some time. Officials of Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) and the state-ownedOdisha Mining Corporation (OMC) were conspicuous by their absence. VAL and OMC have entered into a joint-venture for bauxite mining in the region.

VAL, which has set up an alumina refinery at Lanjigarh on the foothill of Niyamgiri after being promised to get bauxite supply locally, finds it hard to run the unit due to lack of the raw material. A group of Congress MLAs on Saturday met Odisha governor SC Jamir and demanded that gram sabhas be held in all 212 villages and not just those adjoining the proposed mining site, adding more confusion to the entire process.

Second gram sabha too says no to mining at Niyamgiri

The New Indian Express (Bhubaneswar), July 23, 2013
The second gram sabha in Rayagada district went ahead on expected lines on Monday with the tribals rejecting the proposal of bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills. A resolution was passed at the gram sabha at Kesarpadi village asserting the right of the tribals over Niyamgiri hills for religious and cultural reasons and rejecting the proposal of mining on it. Kesarpadi is a small village with 16 Dongria Kondh families.
Rayagada District Collector Sashi Bhusan Padhi told this paper that out of the 36 voters in the village, 33 persons attended the gram sabha. Padhi said the gram sabha was conducted smoothly without any problem.
The first gram sabha in Serkapalli village held on July 18 had also rejected the proposal of mining in Niyamgiri hills. Gram sabhas will be held in five more villages in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts to decide on the issue. The gram sabhas are being held as per the April 18 order of the Supreme Court, which had said that the tribals should decide whether bauxite mining should be allowed at Niyamgiri hills, which is a chain of 4,500-foot high mountains and inhabited by about 2,000 Dongria Kondhs.
Meanwhile, the Centre is likely to move the Supreme Court against the State Government’s decision to limit the number of gram sabhas to 12 instead of 112. Union Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo recently sought the intervention of Odisha Governor over the State’s decision to convene gram sabhas (village level meetings) in 12 villages of Kalahandi and Rayagada districts on Niyamgiri mining.
Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti (NSS), the tribal organisation spearheading the anti-mining agitation, has demanded gram sabhas in all 112 villages located on this hill range instead of 12 villages. A group of tribal Congress MLAs, led by former minister Dambarudhar Ulaka, submitted a memorandum to Governor S C Jamir on Saturday and demanded that gram sabhas should be held in all 205 tribal villages dependent on Niyamgiri hills.
* A resolution was passed at the gram sabha at Kesarpadi village asserting the right of the tribals over Niyamgiri hills for religious and cultural reasons and rejecting the proposal of mining on it.
* Kesarpadi is a small village with 16 Dongria Kondh families.
* Out of the 36 voters in the village, 33 persons attended the gram sabha.
* The first gram sabha in Serkapalli village held on July 18 had also rejected the proposal of mining in Niyamgiri hills.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pro-Vedanta outfit unhappy with first Niyamgiri vote

Business Standard, July 20, 2013
Officials of the two JV partners of the mining project - state-controlled OMC and Vedanta Aluminium - were absent at the gram sabha
Days after the  of Serkapadi village unanimously rejected bauxite mining in the  (LVP), an organisation supporting the Vedanta refinery project has questioned the village council meeting.

"We wanted the people to exercise their judgement without fear and prejudice and, therefore, did not campaign in the villages. However, we were shocked to note hundreds of people belonging to NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti () surrounding the palli sabha spot. Prima facie, this appears to be against the spirit of the Supreme Court judgment, as in this case, the hearing neither becomes fair nor free from fear," said Shridhar Pesnia, president of LVP.

On July 18, when 36 registered voters of Serkapadi village turned up at the gram sabha, the spot was surrounded by scores of supporters of Amnesty International and NSS, a committee formed to safeguard the rights of the tribals. Barricades were erected and police personnel were deployed to ensure security.

Officials of the two joint venture partners of the mining project - state-controlled Odisha Mining Corporation and Vedanta Aluminium - were absent at the gram sabha. LVP officials, too, chose to stay away from the decisive village council meeting, the proceedings of which were overseen by Rayagada district judge Sarat Chandra Mishra.

Focus on Kalahandi meet

Times of India, July 22, 2013
BHAWANIPATNA: After Rayagada, theKalahandi district administration is bracing up to conduct a gram sabha at Tadijhola, the first of five such meets planned in the district, on Tuesday to decide on the proposal to mine bauxite fromNiyamgiri hills.

"We have made all arrangements to hold the first gram sabha at Tadijhola," said district's nodal officer Ramesh Chandra Behera. The gram sabhas will be held in five villages of Trilochanpur gram panchayat in Lanjigarh block between July 23 and 30. In Trilochanpur gram panchayat, around 2038 people live in 27 revenue villages and three hamlets. Almost all of the villages are situated in deep forest of Niyamgiri and have no roads, electricity, education and drinking water. They mostly survive on the forest produce. Tadijhola's gram sabha would follow similar events held at Rayagada's Serkapada on July 18 and Kesarpadi slated for Monday. Serkapadi rejected the mining proposal.

Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti (NSS) president Kumuti Majhi said they have educated all tribals to participate in the gram sabhas. "We have educated all participants to voice their opposition to mining in the gram sabha," said Majhi.

The gram sabhas are being held in consonance with the Supreme Court's April 18 order asking the state government to conduct village level meets to decide Vedanta Aluminium Limited's bid to mine at Niyamgiri hills. The apex court ruled that the gram sabha will examine the the community, individual as well as cultural and religious claims filed by the local Dongria Kondh tribes.

At the gram sabha, adults of the area would vote on the issue. Tadijhola's village council has a total strength of about 45. Of this, around 26 adult members are expected to participate, sources said. Gram sabha would also be held at Palbori on July 24, followed by Phuldumer on July 25, Ijurpa on July 19 and Kunakadu on July 30.

Lawyers in Dharamagrh on strike protesting recruitment process

Reported by Sri Anshuman Patra
Dharitri, July 21, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mining projects in limbo as Niyamgiri simmers

India Today, July 21, 2013
Jugal R Purohit

Though their appearance may be purely seasonal, the dark clouds hovering above the mineral-rich Niyamgiri hills in Orissa are actually mirroring the sentiments prevailing on the ground.

On April 18, when the Supreme Court intervened to empower the Dongaria tribals to decide the fate of bauxite mining in the hills, which they consider as the abode of their deity, it was greeted with applause.

Exactly three months later, as the unprecedented gram sabha consultations finally began, everyone claims to have suffered heartburn. Yet, not everyone can be trusted.

At stake is the future of the Rs.50,000-crore Vedanta Alumina Refinery Plant (ARP) and the proposed Bauxite Mining Project (BMP) - easily among the biggest foreign direct investments that the state has attracted.

While the Supreme Court order directed the authorities to place before the gram sabha, in an uninfluenced atmosphere, the question whether or not the mining proposal affected their religious rights, the presence of a large number of non-tribal elements, including politicians as well as anti-plant activists, in the meeting held on July 18 was not lost on anyone.

The meeting was nearly complete after all 36 villagers of Serkapedi, in Rayagada district, voiced their opposition to mining. However, in the final resolution, the same was not included initially which sparked off a protest.

"While we all spoke of protecting our hills, the same was not being reflected in the final resolution. We had to spend almost two hours arguing before the district judge, who was merely the observer. They are trying ing to barter our traditional religious rights over the hills for those under the Forest Rights Act of 2006, which is unacceptable," said Lingaraj Azad, organiser of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS). Tribals are wary of technicalities being used to dilute their stand.

Another aspect that has rattled the tribals is the logic behind the state administration conducting gram sabhas in only 12 villages when there are actually more than 100 in the Niyamgiri hill range. Accusations are flying thick and fast.

The local Congress unit which has opposed the project has termed this as manipulation to grant Vedanta the go-ahead. Asked about the issue, Rayagada District Collector S.B. Padhi said, "Yes there are around 1,000 families but we won't be going to all. Our law department as well as advocate general have scrutinised the SC order and given us directions."

A state functionary said they were right in selecting the precise 'affected' ones. It can be argued that it was the 2011 speech of Rahul Gandhi to the Dongaria tribals that really elevated the profile of the case. But the party's conduct has been rather intriguing. Member of the Youth Congress and son of a former Orissa minister, Sibasankar Ulaka, who is now in charge of tribal areas near the Niyamgiri hills, told this correspondent that his party had actively transported tribals to the spot of the gram sabha since the government was being selective in talking to them. Denying allegations of a love lost with Vedanta, whom permissions were granted by the Congress-led UPA, he claimed the party opposed the project from day one.

A Vedanta insider said, "We are bleeding heavily; our total losses have exceeded the `3000 crore mark." For the group, the impasse over the last two years seems like a rude shock from. We are here, in a landlocked location on the invitation of the state government. Our MoU with the state in 2006 was for bauxite to be mined by them and handed over to us so that our refinery can work on it. Today, just so that this plant is kept functional, we are sourcing bauxite from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and even Gujarat which is suicidal. We might as well move there," he said.

Panel moots OMC as nodal agency on ore linkage

The New Indian Express (Bhubaneswar), July 21, 2013
The inter-ministerial committee of the State Government on long term ore linkage to local industries on a sustainable manner is believed to have recommended that the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) should be the nodal agency to take care of the ore requirement.
The three-member committee headed by Finance Minister Prasanna Acharya has submitted its report to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. However, the committee members refused to divulge the content of the report.
Industries Minister Niranjan Pujari and Minister of State for Steel and Mines RK Singh are other members of the committee.The Finance Minister said the report will be placed before the Cabinet for a final decision.
Industries sources said the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) has recommended strengthening of the State-owned OMC for sale of ore to the local industries through e-auction.
The industries are opposing the e-auction proposal as they think that their units will not be commercially viable and their products will not be competitive in domestic and international market.
The report of the ministerial committee came at a time when several orders of the State Government on ore supply were either rejected by the Centre or challenged in different fora.The Steel and Mines Department, through a resolution on December 5, 2012, made it mandatory for lessees without end-use plants to sell at least 50 per cent of their extracted iron ore to State-based consuming industries.
However, the Centre shut down the resolution saying the State Government has no such authority.
Meanwhile, the Steel and Mines Department is reported to have sought legal opinion of the Advocate General on the issue. Industries sources said the Government resolution will not be legally tenable.
The Government set up the committee last year after a number of local mineral units complained that they faced acute shortage of ore while miners sell away the minerals to industries outside the State.
One of the glaring example is Vedanta’s alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district which remained closed for about seven months due to scarcity of raw material.
The committee had interaction with all stakeholders including representatives of steel and aluminium companies, industries associations and mines owners with regard to formulation of a policy.

Farmers worried about getting canal water

Reported by Sri Anshuman Patra
Dharitri, July 19, 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Setback for Vedanta as Dongaria tribals reject mining on Niyamgiri hills

Business Standard, July 18, 2013
Locals at Palli sabha feverishly pitched for safeguarding rights of the Kondhs
It’s a resounding no from the  of this hilly village to the  project proposed on top of  hills, a natural treasure trove which the tribals value more than their lives and consider too sacred to part with.

In the first ever  conducted here to decide the fate of any mining project, unprecedented if one factors in the religious rights of indigenous natives, the Kondhs unanimously voted against the project.

“No Dongaria Kondh of this village would back bauxite mining atop Niyamgiri hills”, was the refrain as the 38 out of 46 eligible voters,including all eligible females, who turned up for the assembly meet,conveyed their opinion by raising their hands.

This was after 20-odd participants of the palli sabha feverishly pitched for safeguarding rights of the Kondhs on being given an opportunity to air their views.

Slogans of ‘Niyam Raja (worshipped by the Dongaria Kondhs) Zindabaad’ rented the air towards the close of the palli sabha that stretched for about an hour and a half and proceeded amid presence of police forces and barricades. The proceedings were overseen by the Rayagada district judge Sarat Chandra Mishra in accordance with the Supreme Court direction.

 All verbal statements were duly recorded and written with an interpreter assisting in translation from the Kui dialect of the Kondhs to Odia language. The proceedings were initiated by Indra Sikaka, president of forest rights committee of Serkapadi at the behest of the district judge.

“We are not going to surrender the Niyamgiri hills to anyone- company,government or individual. The whole Niyamgiri range offer us shade, quench our thirst and is the source of our livelihood. That is why we are fighting for our rights”, Sikaka spoke, reflecting the collective view of his village folks.

Officials or representatives from joint venture partners of the bauxite mining project- state run  Mining Corporation and  Aluminium were conspicuous by their absence at the gram sabha. But NGOs (non-government organizations) like Amnesty International and members of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS) stood outside the barricaded space.

A vehicle of the Congress youth wing president of Rayagada was also spotted at the village. It was perhaps for the first time that the Dongaria Kondhs, mostly relegated to history, got a sort of free rein to ventilate their grievances in public and assert their rights.

The highlight of the palli sabha was the views articulated by Gobind Sikaka, a young Kondh. “The Niyamgiri is our revered God and we have been worshipping it for thousands of years.

We are worshipping the trees and every spot of the hill range. If anybody takes away the Niyamgiri hills from us, it will undermine our religion and faith and the Dongaria Kondh tribe will perish.

The forest officials are trying to hoodwink us and have also collected our fake signatures. But in no case, we are going to quit the hills as we are prepared to fight till the last drop of blood is shed”, he said.

Dongu Sikaka, another speaker said, “The Niyamgiri hills will be converted into a desert if bauxite mining is allowed. Even if 10,000 tribals have to give up their lives, they are not going to quit the hills.”