Gujarat- Tribals demand implementation of PESA


Anti-mining movement picks up in South Gujarat, tribals demand early implementation of PESA provisions

Mining in progress in the river bed
By Ashok Shimali*

Anti-mining movement is gearing up in South Gujarat. The main slogan of the movement is, “Save river, save forest, save nature, save minerals and save our life”.
At the bank of Purana river in Kosambai village near Valod town in Tapi district, more than 10,000 peoples started an impressive agitation against rampant mining activities in Purna and Valmiki rivers. People gathered under the banner of the Adivasi Ekata Parishad. Mainly local tribals, they began an indefinite agitation on April 17, which converted into eight representatives of the Adivasi Ekta Parishad going on hunger strike, which began on April 22.

Those who took part in the hunger strike were — Lalsingh Gamit from Kosambia village; Namika Chaudhary, sarpanch of Mordevi village panchayat; Bhupendra Chaudhary, an Adivasi Ekata Parishad activist; several individuals from Kosambia village Jitendra Gamit, Rakesh Chaudhary, Gaman Gamit and Dinubhai Gamit; and Rakesh Gamit from Bahej village.
It all began on April 17 morning, when people gathered at the statue of Dr BR Ambedakar and then began a rally, which ended at Purna river, shouting slogans against mining activities.
At the protest meeting near Purna river
People who took part in the rally felt that there has been adverse impact of mining on groundwater levels, which have gone down considerably. This apart, they complained, dust particles due to mining in nearby agricultural field is affecting their farming activities. Then, there are huge blasts in the river for carrying on mining activities, which are adversely affecting the check dams built on the two rivers.
“More than 15,000 people have been affected by mining in five villages — Mordevi, Kosambia, Bahej, Dolakiya and Kumbhia”, a statement by the Adivasi Ekta Parishad said.
A local delegation met to Union minister Tushar Chaudhary, who belongs to the adivasi belt of South Gujarat, with a list of their demands. Then, on April 21 and 22, a five-member delegation met Tapi district collector Ranjithkumar and discussed the situation about illegal mining in the river stream.
Blasting in progress in the riverbed
The district collector of Tapi took action and sent SDM and mamlatadar of Valod for site inspection and discussion with agitators and leaders. All the relevant documents along with a memorandum were presented to the collector and the officials at the dharna site.
The demands included implementation of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (or PESA), 1996, provisions relating to autonomous rights to tribals over natural resources at the place where they live. The Act specifically says that without the consent of the village panchayat, no mining activity can be undertaken. The district collector assured a detailed inquiry.
The Adivasi Ekta Parishad statement said, “The agitation will spread in all the scheduled areas of Gujarat if we not receive any positive response from government authorities.”

Mamlatdar listens to demands

A memorandum addressed to the Chief Minister, the state forests and environment minister, the industries and mines minister and the tribal affairs minister was also submitted to the mamlatdar. A copy was sent to the Governor of Gujarat, who is constitutionally duty bound to safeguard tribal people‘s rights.

* A senior Gujarat-based activist with Setu, and an executive member of NGO Mines, Minerals and People.

 

Gujarat- Illegal mining in Tapi district causing havoc to environment


 Adivasi Ekta Parishad

 http://www.counterview.net

Ashok Shrimali

By Our Representative

The Adivasi Ekta Parishad has strongly protested against the alleged large-scale illegal mining of soil, rampant in Valod taluka of tribal-dominated Tapi district in South Gujarat. In a representation to the Gujarat government, a copy of which was submitted to the local executive magistrate, Valod, the parishad, which is an all-India body functioning in several states, including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, has said that truckloads of soil is being transported from Mordevi village to elsewhere “without any information being provided about the area for which the permission has been granted, and the amount for which mining has been allowed.” The statement wonders if there is any record with the state government about all this.

The statement, which has been signed by Lalsinh Gamit, president of the Kosambia gram samiti, on behalf of the parishad, wanted the Gujarat government to clarify whether the state geology department has permitted mining of the area, and whether the gram sabha has allowed for the same, and if yes then when was it done and in the presence of which government official. “Truckloads carrying soil from the rural area take the soil indiscriminately, passing through the single track road, despite the fact that the road cannot bear such heavy load. This has led to at least two accidents, out of which one proved to be fatal”, the statement reads, adding, “This apart, the illegal mining activity is leading to the destruction of the environment and the rich agricultural land in the area.”
The statement demands that the Gujarat government immediately take action under the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996, on those who are doing illegal mining. PESA requires the scheduled tribal areas to be covered under tribal self-rule. It envisages giving liberty to tribals to follow their own customs and have control over their own resources through traditional rights. Gujarat is one of the many states where PESA has been put into force. Under it, criminal proceedings can be undertaken against those violating the tribals’ self-rule provisions.

Mining in progress

The statement says, “The government officials know pretty well that anyone who carries out mining in an area of two acres or more would require Gram Sabha approval, otherwise it would be violation of PESA. Permission was granted only to do mining for 2.8 lakh metric tonnes of soil, yet there is no record of how this permission was granted and the area for which it was given. It is the right of the villagers to know this.” It warns of protest against “illegal” mining in the area, adding, “Under the fifth and sixth schedule of the Indian Constitution, it is illegal to mine natural resources of a forest area without necessary permission of the villagers.”
Significantly, representatives from Valod went to the Mines, Mineral and People general assembly session, which was held at Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh recently, where they raised the issue during the convention. Speaking on their behalf, Ashok Shrimali, a state-based senior activist who is executive member of Mines, Minerals and People, and is associated with two other NGOs, Setu and Samata, said, “Recently one development going on in Valod block villages of Tapi district. Villagers are fighting against Soma construction, which is converting the national highway between Surat and Dhulia into four-lane. The construction company is mining soil from the nearby villages without the approval of the villagers. Due to this, there has been direct adverse impact on existing sugar cane crop. Everyday more than 50 truckloads are transporting four times in a day.”

He informed the assembly that there is continuous protest by villagers of the area. A few days back, about 20 trucks were stopped from taking soil from the area, as they believed this was being done in violation of the tribal people’s fundamental constitutional right over their resources. Local officials and cops had to intervene. “PESA should be immediately activated in the area and mining of the region should be stopped”, he said. The issue was seriously taken up by the assembly, which decided to take it up with the authorities concerned in Delhi.

Sand mining area

Mining in the region is common. Following rampant illegal mining in the bed of Tapi river, the state mining department this February decided to book repeated offenders of illegal sand mining activity under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act. Till now, no such strict action was contemplated, as a result of which illegal sand mining became rampant. In February alone, the government’s geology department caught 23 trucks of illegally-mined sand and fined more than Rs 10 lakh to the sand lease mafia owners.
The biggest problem of the region is considered to be of sand lease contractors. They have a lease for mining specific quantity of sand from specified area of the river bed. But, they under the pretext of lease, mine much bigger area and much higher quantity of sand incurring huge loss to government coffers. The geology department has started registering police complaint in the sand theft cases. However it remains to be seen how much of a deterrent it will serve.

 

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