Tribal affairs minister asks Andhra chief minister to cancel bauxite mining leases

Saturday 29 September 2012

Says the leases violate Constitution

The Union tribal affairs minister, V Kishore Chandra Deo, has written a letter to the Andhra Pradesh chief minister, N Kiran Kumar Reddy, asking him to cancel bauxite mining leases.

In a letter sent on September 28, the tribal minister said that all the proposed mining sites fall within Schedule Five area and violate the Constitution. He added that the leases also pose a threat to the survival and living of the tribals and will cause environmental damage.

Earlier in March this year, Deo had written a letter to the Andhra Pradesh governor, asking him to use the governor’s special powers—the Constitution of India gives governor special powers to take measures to safeguard interests of people in Schedule Five  areas—to cancel the MoUs the state government signed for bauxite mining. The governor, E S L Narasimhan, referred it to the state government. But nothing came out of it.

In the letter to the chief minister, Deo stated that the proposed mines would destroy the sources of the rivers Sarada, Gosthani and Champavati, which are the main sources of irrigation in Vijayanagaram and Visakhapatnam. These rivers also provide water to the Tatipudi, Raivada reservoirs which supply drinking water to these districts. The letter also added that insurgency has increased in this tribal belt. Deo noted that the bauxite mining leases violate the protection given under the Alienation of Land Transfer Regulation (ALTR) that strictly prohibits non-tribal’s purchasing tribal lands or even getting it on lease in the Scheduled Areas. The Supreme Court’s well-known judgment in Samata versus Andhra Pradesh government too prohibits transfer of tribal land to non-tribal people, he said.  The apex court in 1997 had ruled that only the cooperative societies owned by the tribes and the public enterprises can conduct mining or industries inside the Schedule Five tribal areas.

But the state government is keen on mining bauxite. To bypass  its own legislation and the strict order of the Supreme Court, the state tactfully designed the mining plan. Mining will be done by the state owned Andhra Pradesh Mining Development Corporation (APMDC) and it will supply ore to the private industries located just outside the tribal areas. APMDC has signed MoUs with Jindal South West Holding Limited and ANRAK, a joint venture of the government of Ras Al Khaimah from the United Arab Emirates and Andhra Pradesh-based Penna Cements.

A high-level committee set up by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to study the socio-economic and ecological impacts of the proposed bauxite mining in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam district has submitted its final report favouring mining.

“I am directing the state government of Andhra Pradesh under Clause 3 of the Fifth Schedule Five of the Constitution to cancel the mining leases to APMDC and report compliance,” states the minister’s letter. Deo is a Member of Parliament from Araku constituency in Visakhapatnam. Araku hills fall within the proposed mining site

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