Shillong, Oct. 5: A group of activists have asked the Meghalaya government to put an embargo on the opening up of new cement factories in the state while demanding people’s involvement in matters relating to land and natural resources.
These were a part of the resolutions adopted at a two-day gathering on land and natural resources held at Bethel Prayer House, Umniuh Road, Umbir village, about 15km from the city.
The gathering was organised by Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR), a people’s group here.
Speaking to reporters, activist Angela Rangad said the gathering had resolved to demand that people be included while decisions are made on matters relating to land and natural resources.
“Land and natural resources belong to the people and the community. Therefore, people cannot be excluded from the decision-making process on land and natural resources,” Rangad, who is also associated with TUR, said. On land acquisition either for public or private utilisation, she said consultations with the people should be carried out, and that the “direct consent from the majority” should be taken into account.
In relation to mining and extractive industries, Rangad said these activities should not be allowed until an accumulative impact assessment has been carried out.
Another resolution pertained to the cement factories in Meghalaya wherein the groups felt that new factories should not be allowed to come up pending computation of the gains and losses the state had obtained from the existing cement plants.
Moreover, Rangad demanded that the government hold a consultation with the people to come out with an energy plan.
Prafulla Samantara, senior activist from Odisha and national convener of the National Alliance People’s Movement, said there was a threat to resources because of globalisation and New Delhi’s policy to invite corporates.
“People in this part of the country are protected under the Sixth Schedule, and hence, they should not allow their resources to be exploited through corporates,” Samantara, who also took part in the gathering, said.
At the same time, he opined that agricultural land should be barred from being acquired while village councils should be the authority to decide whether mining in a particular area should be approved.
To a query, the activists were of the same view that village councils are required to be overhauled in order to make them more accountable and inclusive wherein women should also be allowed to be part of the decision-making process.