Following the Supreme Court judgment over bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills in Orissa last month,Union tribal affairs minister V Kishore Chandra Deo has written to Governor SC Jamir to invoke his special constitutional powers to stop the state government from allowing firms from getting into mining activities in the Schedule V (tribal) areas.
Deos letter to Jamir has come as Orissa prepares to hold gram sabhas in the districts of Kalahandi and Rayagada to determine the religious rights of Dongaria Kondhs over Niyamgiri hills as per the Supreme Court order. The Union tribal affairs ministry would oversee the holding of gram sabhas.
In his letter,Deo seems to have hinted that the Supreme Court might have overlooked the provisions of Schedule V in its last months order on gram sabhas deciding on whether Vedanta can be allowed to mine Niyamgiri for bauxite.
The apex court somehow did not dwell upon the provisions of Schedule V and Article 244 of the Constitution which override all statutory provisions including Panchayats Extension to the Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act. Framers of our Constitution in their wisdom and foresight have incorporated adequate safeguards under the provisions of Article 244 and Schedule V to the Constitution. Hence these Constitutional safeguards are integral to tribal welfare and these cant for any reason whatsoever be bypassed or allowed to be bypassed. I have desired my ministry to bring this position to the kind notice of the Supreme Court, he wrote.
Deo in his May 15 letter said that it was indeed dangerous the way state-owned mineral corporations like Orissa Mining Corporation and Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation were exploiting the mineral wealth by overlooking the constitutional provisions.
Meanwhile,the Orissa government has said it would seek six more weeks from the Supreme Court to conduct gram sabhas.
After the gram sabhas take a decision on their religioud rights,the same would be communicated to the Union ministry of environment and forests,which would decide on allowing mining at Niyamgiri within next two months.