The Union ministry of tribal affairs (MoTA) Secretary Vibha Puri Das asked the Odisha government to arrive at the exact number of villages where gram sabha was to be conducted for restarting the bauxite mining project of Vedanta Group.
Das asked the state government not to restrict the gram sabha to only 12 villages of Niyamgiri hill slopes.
In a letter to Odisha chief secretary BK Patnaik, she said limiting gram sabha meetings is not in accordance with the Supreme Court order.
The list of villages where rights of the forest dwellers are guaranteed under the Forest Rights Act (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, i.e. palli sabha, where claims would be filed through a transparent manner so that no genuine gram sabha which have a legitimate claim is left out of the process.
She said the Supreme Court judgment on April 18 was the only judgment that assumed finality and not subject to or to be read in reference to earlier orders, affidavits filed, argument or submission made.
The proposed mining in Niyamgiri hill is vital for the Vedanta Group, which has signed an MoU with the Odisha government in 2004. The MoU includes supply of 78 million tonne of bauxite by the state owned Odisha Mining Corporation to the alumina refinery from Niyamgiri hill to its alumina plant adjacent to it in Lanjigarh in Kalahandi, about 550 km southwest of Bhubaneswar.