Smt Alka Tiwari
National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes (NCST)
Dear Smt Tiwari,
This refers to a news report (https://www.cnbctv18.com/business/companies/adani-arm-mundra-aluminium-named-preferred-bidder-for-odisha-bauxite-block-16061911.htm) that the Ministry of Mines has recently auctioned Kutrumali bauxite mine in Kalahandi/ Rayagarh districts in Odisha to the Adani Group.
This mineral block is located in Thuamul Rampur of Kalahandi district and partly in Kashipur Tahasil of Rayagada district, which form part of the notified Scheduled Areas in the State.
Earlier, I had submitted to the NCST the case of yet another bauxite mine similarly auctioned, apparently in violation of the PESA and the Forest Rights Act, without prior consent of the local Gram Sabhas. My letter dated 16-2-2023 (https://countercurrents.org/2023/02/private-mining-of-sijimali-bauxite-block-in-kalahandi-and-rayagada-districts-in-odisha-without-gram-sabhas-consent-illegal/) refers.
In putting up mineral blocks for auction to private parties, in addition to seeking prior consent of the local tribal Gram Sabhas, the concerned Ministry ought to have elicited the considered views of the NCST on the policy implications on such a decision, as required under Article 338A(9) of the Constitution.
Moreover, as I had referred earlier in my letter dated 16-2-2023, the restrictive provisions of the Orissa Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property (By Scheduled Tribes) Regulation, 1956 may also be applicable in this case.
In their judgement dated 11-7-1997 in the Samatha case and in their judgement dated 18-4-2013 in Orissa Mining Corporation Ltd case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court had reiterated the above legal position, holding unilateral allotment of mineral resources to private agencies to be illegal.
I submit that these are matters on which the NCST may like to intervene in order to safeguard the interests of the tribals.
E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to Government of India