(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 08, 2012
Bauxite Mining in Visakha:
Central Team Faces Wrath of Tribals
Ch Narasinga Rao
our lands” -- this was the unambiguous
message delivered to the central government by the tribals in
the Agency area
first day of the visit of the central
team, the CPI(M) laid siege to the hotel in
The state government had signed MoUs with AnRak Alluminium Ltd (a joint venture of AP based Penna Cements and Ras al Kaimah emirate) and Jindals for mining bauxite reserves in Visakhapatnam Agency area in 2007. When the publiic hearing was conducted in October 2008, tribals in the four blocks of Jerella in Chitapally forest area vehemently opposed these projects. Thousands held a demonstration against the granting of mining leases to these firms. Since then the tribals and other democratic sections have been opposing the projects. But AnRak went ahead by starting construction of its aluminium refinery.
It was during the brief tenure of the
then union mines minister B K Handique that all clearances
given for bauxite
mining in the scheduled areas of
In this context the CPI(M) decided to firmly oppose the visit of the central team and called in advance a 48-hour bandh in the Agency area during the visit of the team. It refused to meet or submit any memorandum to the team. The tribals by their total participation in the bandh have also rejected the visit of the team.
40 per cent of total bauxite reserves in
Successive state and central governments are neglecting the problems being faced by the tribals. While around 4 lakh acres of land in Visakha Agency area can be bestowed to the tribals under Forest Right Act, pattas for only 40,000 acres have been given to tribals. Despite making grand announcement in 2009 about giving pattas for 1 lakh acres, nothing has been done so far about that. Despite generations of tribals living for centuries in the areas of Jarrela and Sapparla, these areas continue to be shown as reserve forest areas in government records. It is not difficult to know why. Around 90 per cent of these areas have bauxite reserves. Tribals in these areas do not have any right over land or forest produce. If mining is allowed thousands of them would be thrown out of their homes. As per PESA (Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas Act), grama sabhas must be conducted and people’s opinion taken for undertaking such activity in the Agency areas. But so far no such grama sabha has been held in even one village. A farce of public opinion exercise was conducted by the central team in the circuit guest house on December 23 in Visakhapatnam!
As per 1 of 70 Act prevailing in Andhra Pradesh, tribals have sole rights over forest produce, lands and minerals in Agency areas. The forest wealth in the areas has to be tapped through tribal cooperative bodies only. But the state government is conspiring to hand over these precious resources to private corporate using the public sector AP Mineral Development Corporation as a front.
The present legislations in the country governing the exploitation of mineral wealth are blatantly in favour of capitalists and private mine owners. Mining mafias are entering all tribal areas where mining has been allowed. There is not a single tribal area in the country that has seen development of tribals due to such mining. The tribals in Visakha are therefore opposing the attempts of the Congress government to turn the Agency area into a desert in the name of so called development. Bauxite mining will poison the entire Agency area. Water resources will become polluted due to the huge amounts of fine dust that will be generated. This will affect the water supply to Visakhapatnam city also. In view of all this, the CPI(M) has been vehemently opposing bauxite mining from the beginning. Both the main bourgeois parties, the Telugu Desam and the Congress, are acting opportunistically. Opposing the mining when in opposition and striving for it when in power. Therefore it is all the more imperative that the tribals continue to unitedly fight with the same resolve against bauxite mining.