New Delhi\Bhubaneswar, Feb. 15: The Centre today justified in the Supreme Court its decision to cancel the mining lease to Vedanta group in Odisha’s Niyamgiri Hills even as Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) submitted alternative proposals to the state government to procure bauxite for reviving its closed alumina refinery plant at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district.
The Centre argued before the apex court that mining of bauxite, the raw material for making alumina, in Niyamgiri would have grossly violated the fundamental right to livelihood of the tribals residing in the area.
The rights are enshrined in the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
In a fresh affidavit placed before the apex court through solicitor general Mohan Parasaran the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) said the tribals under the Act cannot be divested off their traditional rights except in exceptional circumstances.
“That, keeping in view that Act provides for special safeguards to recognise rights, including community tenures of habitat and habitation (as provided in clause (e) of sub-section (1) of Section3 of the Act) and the traditional right to worship and protection of the sacred place of worship customarily enjoyed by them (as provided in clause (l) of the sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Act) for primitive tribal groups and the pre-agricultural communities, the most vulnerable among the forest dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers, diversion of forest land which adversely affects any right of these communities should ordinarily be not allowed,” the affidavit said.
On the other hand VAL today submitted alternative proposals to procure bauxite for its one million tonne refinery before the ministerial group headed by state finance minister Prasanna Acharya.
“Small bauxite reserves are available in non-forest areas. They are lying unutilised,” said Mukesh Kumar, chief operating officer of VAL, which has been lying closed since December 5 last year for want of raw material. He said for the company it was a question of survival.
The state has 300 million tons of bauxite reserve while VAL’s requirement was only three million tons.
He expressed hope about getting supplies from the state-owned Odisha Mining Corporation. Acharya said that the government would consider the suggestions submitted by VAL.