STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
Bhubaneswar, 8 July
Persisting with the charge that the Odisha government was trying to ‘mislead’ people on holding of gram sabha&’s in Niyamgiri to decide on the bauxite mining project as directed by the Supreme Court, social activist Mr Prafulla Samantara today said ‘no government has the authority to call or issue dates for gram sabha meetings’.
“The Forest Right Act says that gram sabha shall be the authority to initiate the process of determining the nature and extent of individual or community forest rights or both. But in the present case the Odisha government has issued notices and fixed dates as well as arbitrarily decided that gram sabha&’s will be held in 12 villages,” Mr Samatara said at a Press conference here today.
The state government has not right to chose specific villages as the apex court has clearly said that the state government as well as the ministry of tribal affairs would assist the gram sabha for settling of individual as well as community claims.
Mr Samantara alleged that Odisha government was acting as per directions of Vedanta Aluminium Company to mine Niyamgiri hills. The government must withdraw notifications issued to hold gram sabha&’s in 12 villages and inform the villagers that they need to decide on dates to confer and decide on individual and community rights as well as religious rights over Niyamgiri hills.
Mr Samantara chided the government taunting those who raise objections to move to the Supreme Court. “The order is clear and the views of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs also expose the arbitrary decisions of the state government, said the social activist. The state government wants to ride roughshod knowing pretty well that people like me cannot afford to keep knocking at the doors of the Supreme Court repeatedly, he said.