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Allotment of Bayyaram mines to VSP is illegal

Allotment of Bayyaram mines to VSP is illegal
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KMP Patnaik Visakhapatnam : Former bureaucrat and convenor of Forum for Better Visakha EAS Sarma has said the allotment of Bayyaram mines to...

KMP Patnaik

Visakhapatnam : Former bureaucrat and convenor of Forum for Better Visakha EAS Sarma has said the allotment of Bayyaram mines to Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) in a GO issued by the State government is illegal and it violates the Clause 4 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution that requires prior consultation with the Tribal Advisory Council.

In a letter to the secretaries of Mines and Tribal Affairs and the Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh on Monday, Sarma said Bayyaram mandal and other adjacent areas were part of the tribal tract notified under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution and, therefore, any economic activity in this area, including mining activity, attracted the restrictions under that Schedule. The State's decision on Bayyaram, without taking prior approval of the local tribal Gram Sabhas, was unconstitutional and violative of the law of the land. It is detrimental to the interests of the local tribal community, he said.

Both the statutes � Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) � make it obligatory for the State to obtain prior approval from the local Gram Sabhas on (i) whether mining of the local iron ore deposits be taken up at all, and if so, (ii) whether the tribals should have a predominant involvement in such mining.

He reminded the officials that the Supreme Court had recently ordered that Vedanta's bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri Hills in the Scheduled Area in Odisha needed prior approval from the local tribal Gram Sabhas. He said Land Transfer legislation in Andhra Pradesh has also conferred a special status on the tribals in terms of their right to the land, the minerals and the other resources in the Scheduled areas and the State cannot ignore the same in a trifle manner.

"To treat the tribals as marginal human beings and to presume that their rights could be wantonly bypassed in a dictatorial manner run counter to the democratic spirit of the Constitution and, in particular, run counter to the vision of the framers of the Constitution who have incorporated special protective provisions for the tribals in the Fifth Schedule.

The apex court has, time and again, reiterated the obligation of the State to respect these provisions. Apparently, the rulers of the State have not fully assimilated these aspects of the Constitution," he said in the letter. Sarma asked the officials and the government to revoke the order failing which he threatened to seek judicial intervention.

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