The Human Rights Forum (HRF) is of the opinion that both the Congress and YSRCP have no moral right to talk about exploitation of adivasi natural wealth in the Visakhapatnam Agency region. This is because when in power, their parties and leaders tried their worst to get the bauxite mined so as to hand it over to private players for a song. The TDP, of course, is the original culprit in the matter. Back in 2000, Chandrababu Naidu as Chief Minister even tried to hand over bauxite mining to a Dubai-based private company! All three political parties have a dubious track record on the bauxite issue. These parties paid no heed whatsoever to protective legislation for adivasis like PESA, Forest Rights Act of 2006 etc. We also remember the manner in which a farcical public hearing was gone through in June, 2008 for Anrak’s alumina refinery at Makavaripalem.
HRF believes that bauxite mining as well as refining for alumina and then aluminium is unviable in legal, social and environmental terms. These are hugely destructive projects that will devastate the livelihood and sustenance basis of adivasis as well as plainspeople, undermine water security in the hills and plains and cause irreparable damage to the environment. Mining for bauxite will disturb local hydrology and deplete the springs. For instance, Galikonda and Rakthakonda hills which contain bauxite in the Araku-Anantagiri area act as dividers for two important watersheds and are the catchments for the Sarada and Gosthani rivers. Galikonda is one of the sources for the Raiwada reservoir while Rakthakonda feeds Thatipudi reservoir.
Bauxite mining will poison the land and destroy the livelihood of culturally and ecologically fragile communities residing in the area. The scars of bauxite mining will be permanent. Mining for bauxite will lead to displacement of adivasi communities like the Khond, Nooka Dora, Bagata and Manne Dora. Some of them would be suffering multiple displacement as they had moved into the hills of the Visakha Agency due to several destructive projects in the erstwhile Koraput district of Orissa. They would again be forced to abandon a habitat that gave them land for farming, adequate water and forest for sustenance.
The promise of thousands of jobs to adivasis in the event of mining is mere eyewash. Open-cast mining is a highly mechanized process and not labour-intensive. The few jobs that would be available would require skilled personnel and adivasis would lose out.
Vedanta in Orissa, about which much has been discussed in the recent past, represents only the tip of the iceberg of the mining industry in India. The two bauxite mining franchises in AP itself (Jindal & Anrak) will reveal similar statutory infringements. They too come into serious conflict with the tribals’ rights under Schedule V of the Constitution. These statutes lay down clearly that prior consent of the gram sabha is required for bauxite mining and any diversion of forest land. Like Vedanta in the Niyamgiri, the bauxite mining proposals in Visakha Agency also involve equally serious violations of human rights. Their impact on local ecology is extremely deleterious. In fact, the impacted area will be much larger.
Alumina refineries and smelters are also notoriously water hungry. Given lack of sufficient water for irrigation, domestic and existing industrial needs in the area, how can large amounts of water be handed over to bauxite refining companies? This is bound to undermine water security in the region. Diverting large amounts of water for such industries and depriving citizens of their legitimate share is unacceptable.
The APMDC is acting like a benami for private players in order to circumvent protective legislation for adivasis and to induct companies like Anrak surreptitiously through the backdoor. The Supreme Court had laid down in the Samata judgement that lands in Scheduled areas cannot be transferred to non-tribals, as such a transfer would attract provisions of the AP Land Transfer Regulation, 1959 read in conjunction with relevant provisions of the 5th Schedule of the Constitution.
Moreover, the recent GO 97 (issued on November 5, 2015) by the AP government, was not even shown to the Tribal Advisory Council (TAC). TAC ratification is mandatory under the 5th Schedule of the Constitution. GO 97 therefore, has absolutely no legal validity and must be immediately revoked.
VS Krishna S Jeevan Kumar
(HRF general secretary) (HRF president)