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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Tribal people state agitation in Gadchiroli, demand closure of Lloyd mine, lease-cancellation of others

The protesters have also conveyed concern over possible use of high-impact explosives by Lloyd Metals, saying that the same could pose danger to the lives of people as well as animals in the area.

Written by Vivek Deshpande | Nagpur |
Updated: October 28, 2021 3:07:17 am
Lloyd Metals, Lloyd, Etapalli, Gadchiroli, Lloyd mineThousands of locals gathered at Etapalli on Monday demanding closure of the mine as well as cancellation of mine leases granted to several other companies in the iron ore-rich hilly terrain in Etapalli and Bhamragad, alleging gross violations of various laws such as Panchayat Raj (Extention to Scheduled Areas) Act, or PESA Act, Forest Rights Act (FRA) and Maharashtra Gram Panchayat Act. (Express photo by Oinam Anand)

Tribal people from Etapalli and Bhamragad tehsils in Gadchiroli district have been staging an agitation against the iron ore mine of Lloyd Metals and Energy Limited at Surjagad in Etapalli tehsil for the past three days.

Thousands of locals gathered at Etapalli on Monday demanding closure of the mine as well as cancellation of mine leases granted to several other companies in the iron ore-rich hilly terrain in Etapalli and Bhamragad, alleging gross violations of various laws such as Panchayat Raj (Extention to Scheduled Areas) Act, or PESA Act, Forest Rights Act (FRA) and Maharashtra Gram Panchayat Act.

Led by Zilla Parishad member Sainu Gota, thousands had gathered at Etapalli on Monday with the intention to stage an indefinite sit-in.

In a memorandum addressed to the President, the Prime Minister, Maharashtra Governor and Gadchiroli Collector, the protesters under the banners of Surjagad Paramparik Ilaka Gotul Samiti and Zilla Mahagram Sabha Swayatta Parishad have listed the leases granted to various companies for iron ore extraction in Etapalli and Korchi tehsils of the district, pointing out several alleged irregularities in the grant of leases. They said that various acts require the government to seek permission of the gram sabha, which was never sought. They also pointed out that the mining activity will cause pollution and interfere with the right of community forest management granted by FRA to gram sabhas in these areas. The protesters also said that the hillocks, where these leases have been granted, are “seeds of tribal deities”, adding mining activity is an attack on religious practices and culture of tribal people.

The protesters have also conveyed concern over possible use of high-impact explosives by Lloyd Metals, saying that the same could pose danger to the lives of people as well as animals in the area. They have also said that the explosives could be secretly routed to Naxalites, which then could be used for anti-national activities. The Naxalites could also raid the mine site to steal the explosives, which could lead to major mishap, they said.

The protesters further said in the memorandum that the mining activity is being pushed in the name of generating employment whereas the tribal people and other traditional forest dwellers have already been earning good revenue by harvesting tendu, bamboo and other minor forest resources under the rights provided by FRA.

The protesters said that several representations in the regard had been given to the government earlier too but it did not pay any heed.

Prominent social and environmental activist and president of Rashtriya Ekta Parishad P V Rajgopal visited the protesters on Monday and extended his support to the stir. He said that the attempt to deprive the tribal people and gram sabhas of their rights over water, forests and land as well as natural resources was unfortunate. He promised them that he will make all efforts to protect their rights.

When asked how long the stir would go on, Gota told The Indian Express, “We are here for the long haul. People have brought rice to last for several days.”

Gota said that about 1,200 demonstrators have been camping at Etapalli.

Gadchiroli Collector Sanjay Meena said, “PESA or FRA grants right to the locals over minor minerals only. Iron ore is a major mineral. And the whole process of grant of lease was completed much before the FRA came into existence. But they have a right to peaceful agitation and our officials are already talking to them to convince them to withdraw their stir. There is no law and order problem.”

Asked why the protesters are agitated against mining of iron ore, Gota said, “Any such mining activity needs permission of the grams sabhas. The same has not been taken. Clearly, it is a violation of our rights.”

Gota alleged that officials have been pressurising them to withdraw the stir.

Lloyd officials could not be contacted for comment.

As reported earlier by The Indian Express, Lloyd mine, which had started its operation about five years ago, had been largely defunct due to opposition by local tribal people as well as Naxalites. There have been instances of major Naxal attacks on the company’s transport activity as well as officials over the last several years. But the company has resumed the mining for the past two months, providing employment to over 2,000-3,000 persons in the area, company officials had said. The company has also undertaken various developmental activities such as construction and repair of roads and medical treatment facility for the locals, they had added.

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