Vedanta mining: amid Tribal ministry’s protest Odisha fixes Gram Sabha dates


Bhubaneswar, July 5, 2013

 The tribal busy at a paddy field at the foothills of Niyamgiri Hills in Kalhandi district of Odisha. In the background Vedanta Aluminium factory can be seen. A file photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury.

PTI

The Hindu The tribal busy at a paddy field at the foothills of Niyamgiri Hills in Kalhandi district of Odisha. In the background Vedanta Aluminium factory can be seen. A file photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury.

Ignoring objections by the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the Odisha government on Friday announced dates for conducting Gram Sabhas in 12 villages of Kalahandi and Rayagada districts to decide fate of the proposed bauxite mining for Vedanta atop Niyamgiri Hills.

“We have decided to hold Gram Sabha in 12 hill slope villages as per the April 18 Supreme Court order. While Gram Sabha will be held between July 18 and August 19 in seven villages of Rayagada district, similar exercise will be done between July 23 and 30 in five villages of Kalahandi district,” Odisha’s ST and SC development minister L B Himirika told reporters in Bhubaneswar.

To a question, Mr. Himirika said the state government had earlier decided to hold Gram Sabha in 12 limited villages and it would implement it. “We are going by the Apex Court’s order,” Mr. Himirika said sidestepping a question on the MoTA’s objection.

On April 18, the Supreme Court order asked the state government to hold gram sabhas to decide the fate of Vedanta’s plan to mine at Niyamgiri.

“We need at least 50 per cent attendance to conduct a gram sabha. One-third of them should be women. If quorum is not achieved, the gram sabha will be cancelled and conducted later,” Rayagada district collector Sashi Bhusan Padhi said.

Meanwhile, Odisha’s Advocate General (AG) in a report supported the state government’s decision in 12 hill slope villages of Niyamgiri. The state government had sought Law department and AG’s views on objections raised by MoTA.

Earlier, Union Minister of Tribal Affairs V Kishore Chandra Deo had said that limiting Gram Sabha proceedings to only 12 villages was not in accordance with the Supreme Court order dated April 18 and directions issued by the ministry under Section 12 of Forest Right Act (FRA).

Mr. Deo had also written a letter to Governor S C Jamir seeking his intervention in the matter, saying the areas where gram sabhas are proposed to be held fall under Schedule V categoty.

“The list of villages where rights of forest dwellers are guaranteed under the FRA or where cultural and religious rights are likely to be affected cannot be arbitrarily decided by the state government. It is to be decided by the people (Palli Sabha) where claims would be filed through a transparent manner so that no genuine Gram Sabha which has a legitimate claim is left out of the process. This is in line with Para 59 of the apex court judgement,” Vibha Puri Das, secretary, MoTA, had written to the state chief secretary recently.

The Ministry clarified that it had received several claims under FRA for various rights, including religious and cultural rights claimed over Niyamgiri forests and sacred areas from villages over and above the 12 villages selected by the state government.

It shows that Niyamgiri forests are shared by not just 12 villages, but many other villages in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts too share religious and cultural rights over Niyamgiri, the ministry observed.

Referring to Para 53 and 54 of the Supreme Court (SC) judgement, the MoTA letter said, “Such observations cannot be interpreted to assess the number of villages that need to be considered for recognition and vesting of claims under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Right) Act-2006.”

The Supreme Court in its order had directed the state government to complete Gram Sabhas within three months to get the mandate of the local people regarding the mining project.

The judgement had also called for considering all claims on community, individual, cultural and religious rights of the local inhabitants.

 

#India – For the love of justice #Chhattisgarh #Salwajudum


naxalarea

Nandini Sundar   July 04, 2013

On July 5 2011, a Bench of Justice B Sudershan Reddy and Justice SS Nijjar of the Supreme Court delivered what is widely regarded as a landmark judgement, banning Salwa Judum by any name, and disbanding and disarming special police officers (SPOs) who had been responsible, along with security forces, for many human rights violations. 

The only activity that the erstwhile SPOs would be permitted was traffic and disaster management, and that too, only if they were innocent of any crimes.

The court ordered that criminal investigations and prosecutions be initiated in Chhattisgarh. Earlier that year, they had also directed that the security forces vacate all schools and ashrams, with the aim of restarting schools in the villages.

 

 

The Bench asked the CBI to investigate the March 2011 rapes, murder and arson in Tadmetla and neighbouring villages and subsequent events in which Swami Agnivesh was attacked while trying to deliver relief.

As Justice Reddy (now retired) said in a recent interview, had the Supreme Court’s orders been implemented, perhaps the May 25 attack could have been avoided. However, far from obeying the court, the governments in Chhattisgarh and the Centre have done everything possible to flout the order.

The Union of India attempted to have the order overturned through a review petition, but succeeded only in having it limited to Chhattisgarh. The government of Chhattisgarh responded by renaming all the SPOs, ‘armed auxiliary forces’ with effect from the date of the judgement, and giving them automatic weapons and higher salaries.

Schools are still occupied, no prosecutions have taken place, no victims of the violence perpetrated by Salwa Judum have received any compensation, and the CBI enquiry is still incomplete.

The CBI first visited Tadmetla in January 2012. In February, the Maoists killed one of the former SPOs, Kartam Surya, who had been accused of rape, and whom the state had been staunchly defending inside and outside court.

The SPOs then physically attacked the CBI team. They have now decided to conduct their enquiry out of Jagdalpur. In May this year, the villagers travelled 400 km to depose, including old men and breastfeeding mothers, leaving aside their annual tendu patta earnings.

The state government continues to stall all mention of a joint monitoring committee led by eminent independent persons, which alone can ensure that FIRs are registered, compensation given and some degree of normalcy restored.

In March 2012, the petitioners filed a contempt petition. There have been 13 listings since, but not one hearing. On six occasions, we sat in court but the matter was not heard because other cases before it took up all the time.

The matter was adjourned four times because despite asking and being given a ‘non-miscellaneous day’ by the court, the listing branch of the Supreme Court assigned it to a miscellaneous day. (Tuesdays to Thursdays are non-miscellaneous days, where matters can be heard properly while Mondays and Fridays are frenzied because a large number of fresh matters are considered for admission).

On three occasions, when everything was right — it was a non-miscellaneous day and our turn had come — Chhattisgarh’s counsel bought time on technicalities.

The only people to have benefitted from the Supreme Court litigation so far are the SPOs and the lawyers for the Chhattisgarh government, who have made lakhs in fees for delaying justice to starving adivasis.

Chhattisgarh’s litigation strategy is also to keep filing affidavits with the same data, but under different annexure numbers, in order to mislead the court. On the other hand, the lawyers for the petitioners, Ashok Desai and Nitya Ramakrishnan and their juniors, have put in years of pro-bono work (seven years already and still counting), at considerable personal cost.

Sumita Hazarika as the advocate on record (AOR) has gracefully filed endless affidavits. Our co-petitioner Kartam Joga suffered two-and-a-half years in jail on false charges, before being acquitted earlier this year.

My years of court observation have instilled an enormous respect for the judges whose daily workload involves reading voluminous briefs and listening to a series of complicated matters.

There has to be a system which is less cruel to them, as well as to PIL lawyers and ordinary litigants, such as more reliance on written documents and limited time for arguments, as is the case in other countries.

No litigant from outside Delhi can afford to keep coming for hearings. And no adivasis on their own could afford to fight such battles in the Supreme Court.

The security forces killed 25 innocent villagers, including several children, in two separate attacks — Sarkeguda in June 2012 and Edesmetta in May. The Maoists kidnapped Alex Menon, the district collector of Sukma, in March 2012, and killed 27 Congress leaders and workers in May.

Unless there is a breakthrough of some kind, there is no prospect of peace. Implementing court orders will not resolve everything but justice goes much further than anything else.

What is surprising is not that adivasis support the Maoists against the police. What is inspiring is how adivasis continue to believe in justice, to send letters to the court, to attend CBI hearings.

Hope is the hardest thing to extinguish in the human heart, and justice is the gossamer thread that binds people to the State.

Nandini Sundar is a litigant in the Salwa Judum case

The views expressed by the author are personal

Dr Binayak Sen denied permission to UN Rapporteur’s seminar #WTFnews


Kractivism in Actionp- Free Binayak Sen Campaign

Kractivism in Actionp- Free Binayak Sen Campaign

Suvojit Bagchi, The Hindu

His visit will compromise the internal security of the state, says court

Rights activist Binayak Sen has been denied permission to participate in an international seminar on health care in Kathmandu by a Raipur court. Dr. Sen sought permission to visit Kathmandu after confirming his participation to the seminar organisers and hence “the application is not bona fide” the court order said.

The court has also considered a reply by Chhattisgarh police that said Dr. Sen’s visit to Nepal “will compromise internal security of the state.”

Dr. Sen was invited by the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health to speak in an international two-day seminar on providing health care in conflict areas. Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, told The Hindu that he is “surprised and shocked” by the court’s order. He said the report of the meeting would be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Hours before his departure on Friday, a court order restricted Dr. Sen from visiting Kathmandu. “It is evident from the application that the applicant has agreed to take part in the programme without the permission of this court. He sought permission on June 28 and accepted the proposal (to visit Kathmandu) on June 21,” Additional Sessions Court judge Alok Kumar Upadhyay said in his order.

“Dr. Sen agreed to attend the meeting (before June 21) before he sought a permission, so that the organisers could send him the accommodation and flight details and he could furnish those in turn (to court) with his application,” said Dr. Sen’s lawyer, S.K. Farhan. The details of accommodation and a copy of the air tickets to and from Kathmandu were attached with the application.

Earlier, the court sought a reply from the police about Dr. Sen’s application, to which Additional SP, Raipur, Lal Umed Singh replied that Dr. Sen’s visit is detrimental to the country’s security.

“Such foreign visits of Dr. Sen consolidate Naxal and Maoist networks. India’s internal security is also compromised,” Mr. Singh stated. “In view of increased Maoist violence, killing of security personnel and prominent political leaders, objection is raised against Dr. Sen’s foreign visit,” Mr. Singh told the court.

Dr. Sen was invited to speak on healthcare delivery and accessibility to people in remote conflict areas, especially focussing Chhattisgarh. His topic was broadly described in the draft agenda as ‘availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of health facilities, goods and services — duties and responsibilities toward affected populations, obligations of non-discrimination and medical independence, Treatment of parties to the conflict cf. civilians.’ He was supposed to speak on the first day of the seminar alongside health care and human rights activists from Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Jamshid Gaziyev, Special Procedures Branch, Katherine Footer of John Hopkins School of Public Health and International Committee of the Red Cross will be attending the seminar, according to the draft agenda.

In April 2011, a Chhattisgarh Court directed Dr. Sen to surrender his passport as a bail condition in line with the Supreme Court order. While it is not mandatory to have a passport to travel to Nepal, Dr. Sen needs permission from court for any overseas travel.

Earlier, he was allowed to travel abroad twice — to South Korea in 2011 and United Kingdom in 2012 — and on both occasions the Chhattisgarh court approved the travel.

Keywords: Binayak Senrights activisthealth care seminar

 

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