Thursday, February 05, 2015

Jayanthi Natarajan "never stood by tribals' rights" in MNC Vedanta's move to mine Niyamigiri Hills in Odisha

By Our Representative
The Odisha Chapter of the Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), which played a vital role in the struggle for the enactment of historic Forest Rights Act, 2006 has blamed former Union environment minister Jaynaynthi Natarjan for failing to play any vital role to defend the tribals' rights in the forest areas during her tenure under the former UPA government. Countering her recent statement that she rejected environmental clearance to Vendanta, the top UK-based NMC, despite tremendous pressure from her colleagues in Cabinet and huge criticism from industry, and the claim that her decision was “upheld by the Supreme Court”, the CSD said this is simply not true, and actually she "disrespected" FRA.
According to the top NGO, which is in the forefront of the struggle against Vedanta, Natarajan “at no place supported those who were fighting against the proposed mining activities of the that by the MNC in Hiyamgiri Hills. Even in her “media statement and even in the long letter written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, she has neither mentioned necessary provisions of the FRA, nor the decision of the Supreme Court of India, nor the protests of Dongaria Kondh, which finally led to the dismissal of mining in Niyamgiri Hills in Odisha.

CSD said, “The cancellation of stage-II forest clearance to Vedanta was due to the violation historic FRA enacted during UPA-I along with the historic struggle of the Dongaria Kondh to save Niyamgiri. FRA is the law of the land. This is not about Rahul Gandhi or Jayanthi Natarajan. It is about people's rights to their land and forests. This is what the Supreme Court had also held.”

The NGO further said, even the Ministry of Environmental Affairs (MoEF) “refusal for Stage-II forest clearance to Vedanta on August 24, 2010 for diversion of 660 hectares of forest land for bauxite mining in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts was based on the Forest Advisory Committee's (FAC) adverse views on violation of rights of the tribal groups and impact on the ecology and biodiversity of the area”. It added, “Even the Supreme Court did not decided on the Vedanta case; rather it left it on the gram sabhas (the village council) to finally decide whether mining would be done in the Niyamgiri Hills or not.”

According to the NGO, “Based on the Supreme Court’s direction, referendum (a process of direct democracy) was held in which 985 tribals from 12 villages (seven in Rayagada district – Serkapadi, Kesarpadi, Khambesi, Jarapa, Batudi, Lamba and Lakhpadar and five in Kalahandi – Tadijhola, Palberi, Phuldumer, Ijurupa and Kunakuda), took part and unanimously decided to reject the bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri Hills.”



Commenting on the recent statement Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and environment minsiter Prakash Jawadekar, who have decided to review all projects which have been granted environmental clearance or were rejected by the UPA regime in the wake of Natarajan's allegations, the CSD cautioned them not to review the Vedanta case. “The BJP and others who are trying to pander to the corporate lobby should remember that diversion of Niyamgiri would have been a crime under the law and all the officials concerned should have been jailed”, it insisted.

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