FFR

A seven-member team of Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakhya Sangathan, Odisha had visited Semiliguda and Patangi block of Koraput district for two days on October 31 and November 01. The objective of this fact finding was to know about the reason of massive arrests happened after Public Hearing held on 22nd September for Mali Parbat bauxite mining of HINDALCO.

The team firstly went to six villages – Pakajhola, Rajanaguda, Aligaon, Ranikana, K. Maliguda and Dekapara – situated on foothills of the Mali Hill in Semiliguda block. Then the team went to another two villages – Malakarabandh and Erasantaguda – situated around Serubandh Hill of Patangi block in same district. Later we met the Additional Collector and the District Collector at Koraput town.

This is to inform that the Government of Odisha signed MOU with HINDALCO in 2003 for mining bauxite from Mali Hill and with NALCO – a public sector unit – in 2010 for mining bauxite from Serubandh Hill. Both these hills are belong to one hill range, Deo Mali. People of the area, mainly the peasants, have been opposing the mining companies from the day of the MOUs.

We are here mentioning our finding report in brief.

A) Mali Hill area:

  1. The local villagers told before the team that police in a vehicle had announced about the date, time and place of public hearing two days before the date of the public hearing. The public hearing on 22 September was scheduled to be started at 11am at Kankadamba village. What the villagers said that instead of 11am the public hearing was started at 9am. When our team met the Additional collector Mr. Sujit Mishra, we asked about it. But he became silent. When our team met the District Collector Mr. Abdaal M. Akhtar at his office at Koraput, we had asked same question to him. But he said it as “false allegation”. As per his statement, the meeting started at 11am and villagers reached at 11.05am. He also denied allegation of villagers that police and company goons were blocking them on their way to the venue. But when our team asked him about the reason of cancellation of such public hearing he said, “some anti-socials reached the venue and interrupted the process” for which that public hearing was cancelled. Now the Pollution Control Board of Odisha is conducting another Public Hearing for same HINDALCO project on 22 November at same venue.
  2. The procedure of the public hearing is that the people of proposed project would get project-details in local language much before the hearing. Then the informed villagers would attend the public hearing and would tell about their views. The police should look into the law and order situation. The team had asked about the villagers about any written report of HINDALCO’s project. Neither the Company nor the district administration has produced and circulated any document about the project.
  3. The police have arrested 28 people after the public hearing on charges of attempt to murder, disruption and damaging properties etc. Our team met family members of 13 arrested people. The police had broken the door of Bhakta Patnaik (Aligaon), Abhijit Jani and Ramesh Hantal (Dekapar village) and Raghu Nayak (Pakajhola village) and had broken school door of Dekapara village. As per the D K Basu Judgement, the police should inform the family member after the arrest. In this case, though the family members of the arrested person have asked to the local police station but they had denied of any knowledge. Sunamani, wife of Dashinandi Bali and Sabitri Khara, wife of Rabi Khara complained that police did not cooperate them when they were enquiring about their husband. Dashinandi and Rabi Khara including 28 people are still in Koraput jail.
  4. The local villagers are still in fear. Women of some of the villages are guiding their own village in the night.
  5. Our team found that all villagers of the area depend on perennial stream of Mali hill and Serubandh Hill. They grow paddy, ragi, several type of vegetables here. They also supply this to Koraput, Vishakhapatnam and also Bhubaneswar. The villagers of Dekaparu, Aligaon and K Maliguda use stream water for drinking.
  6. Many of the streams are meeting with Kolab river. It helps water reservoir to fill up. Also Kolab river is connected with Godavari river. So excess water from the reservoir goes to Godavari. People know that because of the bauxite their streams are perennial. This they got after observing perennial stream from the Panchaput Mali of NALCO. NALCO had its bauxite mining at Panchaput Mali since 80s. Now bauxite has been finished up from this hill. This mining has dried up all streams from the hill. Most of the villagers living around Panchaput mali are migrating to other places because of lack of stream water. Here, People feel that similar situation may happen in Mali and Serubandh hill if HINDALCO and NALCO mining happen. They have opposing the project since 2003.

B) Serubandh area:

Our team also visited Malakarabandh and Erasantaguda villages of Maliput panchayat of Patangi block in Koraput district.

  1. On June 19, 2018 gramsabha was held in four gram panchayats, namely, Maliput, Patanti, Nuagaon and Kotia for conversion of forest land for non-forest purposes. This is essential for the NALCO to do its second bauxite mining project after Panchput Mali. In all four gramsabhas the villagers had opposed such conversion. But the district collector has called on another pallisabha/gramasabha for conversion of forest land on coming 9th November 2021. He is ignoring earlier decisions of the gramasabh. Our team asked him why such gramsabha was essential. The District collector has the views that earlier this gramsabh was conducted as per Panchyat in Scheduled Area Act (PESA). Koraput district is coming under the fifth scheduled area of the constitution. But it should be conducted as per Forest Rights Act what he said to the team.
  2. The Gramsabha earlier was conducted at block head quarter of Patangi without following the voters list what the Collector had said to the team members. Later we found that it was held at gram panchayat head quarter with proper procedure. The people had opposed conversion of forest land on June 19, 2018 gramsabha. Though this new gramsabha is not essential but the government of Odisha is doing it again for benefitting the NALCO. The government is even ignoring earlier decision of the gramsabha. So, this new process is illegal.
  3. People around the Serubandh Hill have been opposing the proposed NALCO bauxite mining project since 2010. If mining happens then villagers of nearly 60 villages of six gram panchayats would be directly affected.

Our Demands:

We are keeping following demands before the government of Odisha.

  1. The government should cancel the HINDALCO and NALCO bauxite mining lease.
  2. Those have been arrested from both Mali Parbat and Serubandh hill area should be released soon.
  3. The government should respect PESA and should work as per decisions of Gramasabha and Pallisabha
  4. The farmers should get price fixed by the Regional Marketing Cooperatives.

We have already experienced number cyclones and droughts in last twenty years in the coast of Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. The intensity and frequency of those cyclones are increasing. The excess mining, pollution, destruction of forest etc are few reasons why we are experiencing such calamities. The poorer sections of our society, farmers, adivasis and dalits are the worst sufferers of those cyclones and droughts. But the government of Odisha has been giving new leases for mining and have been using police forces to cow down the local villagers. This is for smooth transfer of land to the industrial houses. Here, the government of Odisha should cancel the mining projects of HINDALCO and NALCO. It should give priority to protection of forest and development of indigenous agriculture.

Team members:

Deba Ranjan, Gupteswar Panigrahi (Sr. Advocate/ Koraput), Rajib Sagaria (Sr. Journalist/Balangir), Debendra Nayak (Nabarangpur), Bideshi Gouda (Malkanagiri), Debi Prasanna Rath (Puri) and Azad Swati.

Email: gassbhubaneswara@gmail.com


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