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No need for panchayat, gram sabha nod to carry on mining work in non-scheduled areas: Gujarat government

An AKSM poster following efforts to dub it as terrorist body
By Our Representative
The Gujarat government believes it can go ahead and mine any part of Gujarat if it is not a scheduled area, and it does not need any permission or consultation from the village panchayats or the gram sabha under which a proposed mining area comes. This has been revealed in a state government document, which provides replies to a large number of social and economic issues raised by the Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Manch (AKSM), which has been active in the tribal areas of Gujarat for the last nearly a decade.
Critics say, this is type of view is in "complete contrast" to the sporit of the 73rd amendment of the Indian Constitution, which provides for panchayat control over common resources falling under the village.
The AKSM had asked state authorities whether panchayat permission had been sought for sand mining in Sihor village of Chhotaudepur district in South Gujarat. To this, the government geologist, Chhotaudepur, responsible for giving mining permission, said, “As Sihor village is not a scheduled area, there is no need for the government to seek permission of the village panchayat for this.” The Sihor panchayat, significantly, had passed a resolution opposing sand mining in its area.
The government view has come in the midst of rampant sand mining going in a large number of wetlands, especially rivers, of Chhotaudepur and Tapi districts of South Gujarat, making local tribals feeling alienated from the land and other natural resources to which, they think, they should have complete access.
The mining, going on in the region, is being stiffly opposed by AKSM, which called for a protest rally and dharna in Chhotaudepur early this month. The programme had to be called off following Gujarat government declaring entire Chhotaudepur district as "prone to terrorist activities" in order to impose curfew till February 14 (click HERE to read).
Justifying the order, the state administration made it known that the organisation which had proposed the protest, including dharna, AKSM, was being "closely watched" for its "suspicious activities". It went so far as to say that the AKSM was "already running a parellel government", which could not be allowed.
AKSM president Romel Sutariya, a Dalit and a follower of founder of the Indian Constitution, Dr BR Ambedkar, told newspersons that the AKSM's stiff opposition – through campaigns and rallies – to sand mining of the riverbeds which has completely shaken the state administration, one reason why allegations of terrorism were being spread.
"It not only tried to say that we were closely associated with terrorist activities; it even arrested one of our most active colleagues, Jayram Gamit, under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities (PASA) Act. Gamit was taken Rajkot, which he remains in jail for the one week. All this clearly suggests that the administration is acting in alliance with the sand mafia", he alleged.
"Things have not stopped here", said Sutariya, adding, "Now, the state administration has told us in writing that three talukas – Pavi Jetpur, Sankheda and Bodeli – are no more in the scheduled areas, suggesting that sand mining lease in all three could be given in all the villages in the area without any permission from gram panchayats."
Sutariya said, "The officials concerned do not say when these talukas' tribal areas were taken out of the scheduled list, if it existed, and why, and who gave it the permission for this."
Meanwhile, Sutariya has written a protest letter to the director-general of police, Gujarat, wondering why his organisation was being targeted as if it were carrying on terrorist activities.
"We are being targeted in a very strange way", he said. "Suddenly, a word is being spread that our organisation was in some way was involved in terror attack in Ahmedabad a few years ago. This is strange. We plan to meet Union home minister Rajnath Singh in February third week to apprise him of this. We are a democratic organisation, and do not believe in violence."

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