Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tribals fear parties will forget Niyamgiri after polls

Times of India, April 2, 2014
,TNN | Apr 2, 2014, 08.55 AM IST
BHUBANESWAR: Satyabadi Goud of Tadijhola, where the first gram sabha was held in Kalahandi district following a Supreme Court direction on Niyamgiri bauxite mining issue, displayed a feeling of pride while talking about how they saved Niayamgiri hill from the "clutches" of Vedanta Aluminum Limited (VAL).

He said that for years they stood firm on the issue and toiled hard to spread the message that if anybody can save Niyamgiri bauxite from being looted it is the local tribals, the Dongria kondh, who consider the hill their local deity.

Come election, Goud has become apprehensive about the fate of the hill. He says, "We raised our voices against the mining at Niyamgiri and gathered public opinion against it. The local leaders only supported us in the movement but we don't know what will happen after the election is over," said Goud. He said that after the election results, the politicians might change their stance and stop worrying about the Niyamgiri issue.

Sitting in front of the thatched house in the non-descript Khemdipadar village, about 90km from Bhawanipatna, Trilochanpur woman sarpanch Timu Majhi had a similar reaction on the Niyamgiri mining. Timu made it clear that whosoever promised to continue to press for the Niyamgiri cause they would vote for him. "I took a lot of pains to attend the gram sabha. I kept inspiring other villagers to raise their voices against the bauxite mining. We have not decided who to vote for as yet," said Majhi.

She said, without naming anybody, that local leaders have now made Niyamgiri issue their poll plank, though the tribals contributed to the success of the movement. "Niyamgiri is not the lone issue. Including my village, other villagers are also not happy over the slow pace of development in the area, where vehicles have to trudge to reach the villages in the absence of pucca roads," she said. Now the villagers are demanding basic facilities in the 112 villages surrounded by the hill, she added.

Five gram sabhas were held in Kalahandi and seven in Rayagada district after the SC directed the state government that gram sabha, as per the Forest Rights Act, 2006, would decide the fate of Niayamgiri hill.

Sources said Kalahandi Congress MP Bhakta Das, who had started anti-Vedanta campaign in the last elections, won with an impressive margin. Since then, he has been associated with the campaign.

In 2008, he had been to Ijurpa village, where tribals expressed their woes. Rahul then promised to be with them till Niyamgiri was secure.

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