As the ninth successive gram sabha rejected mining in Niyamgiri hills on Thursday, the Congress chose to rub salt onto the wounds of an embarrassed Naveen Patnaik Government with Union Minister Srikant Jena demanding an apology from the Chief Minister.
On Thursday, palli sabha was held in Lamba, a predominantly tribal-inhabited village under Kalyansinghpur block of Rayagada district. Of 46 voters, 38 turned up at the meeting and voted against bauxite mining in Niyamgiri.
With all the villages going against mining, the Congress said the verdict of the people has exposed the lie of the Biju Janata Dal Government. Jena, the Union Fertilizer and Chemical Minister, alleged that the BJD Government had submitted a false affidavit before the Supreme Court stating that it had secured the consent of the palli sabhas before deciding in favour of mining in the hills.
“The decision for bauxite mining was forced on the tribal villages and a false affidavit was submitted to the apex court while the Ministry of Environment and Forests too was provided misleading information,” Jena told mediapersons here. Naveen, he said, owes an apology to the tribals of Niyamgiri as well as people of the State for his Government’s blatant lie.
“It is about time he should introspect if he should continue,” Jena said seeking resignation of the Chief Minister. He said Naveen has lost all moral rights to continue as he has been exposed before the whole country for his government’s collusion with Vedanta Alumina Ltd to loot the mineral resources of the State.
The media cell chairman and senior leader of Pradesh Congress Narasingh Mishra said his party will explore legal options against the BJD Government for filing false affidavit before the SC.
The Panchayat (Extensions to Scheduled Areas) Act 1986, he said, clearly stipulates that consent of palli sabhas must be secured before mining is permitted but it was violated in case of Niyamgiri where the bauxite mining project was proposed.
Vedanta Group, Mishra said, has been favoured by the BJD Government in more ways than one.
The illegal acquisition of land for setting up a university in Puri by the company was to be probed as per an order by a local court of Bhubaneswar but Government is sitting on it since 2008, he said. No investigation has been conducted and no action taken yet.
Governor SC Jamir had sought a status report on it but he has not been replied, Mishra added.