People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 02

January 08, 2012


Bauxite Mining in Visakha:

Central Team Faces Wrath of Tribals


Ch Narasinga Rao


“Lay off our lands” -- this was the unambiguous message delivered to the central government by the tribals in the Agency area of Visakhapatnam recently.  The entire Agency area observed a 48-hour total bandh on December 20 and 21 opposing the visit of the central team of union environment and forests ministry to the proposed bauxite mining area. The bandh call was given by the CPI(M) while other opposition parties expressed solidarity to the call. The bandh was so complete and successful that not even bicycles moved in the area. Trees were felled to block the roads in many areas to prevent the team from visiting the area.


On the first day of the visit of the central team, the CPI(M) laid siege to the hotel in Visakhapatnam in which the team was put up. They could not undertake their visit on the first day. Simulataneously the bandh in the Agency area was on in full swing. Faced with such a hostile situation, the team tried to visit Jerella in Agency area by helicopter. The helicopter was to land on the Kondrupally hilltop. But the tribals lay in wait there with all their traditional weapons, including bows and arrows. They waited for the entire 48 hours even in biting cold to confront the team, which however did not dare to land there. The team came back to Visakhapatnam and claimed they had conducted an “aerial survey”!  The firm resolve of the tribals to resist the government’s move to take away their lands was very much evident.


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 Visakhapatnam were kept in abeyance pending detailed evaluation by experts on the impact of mining on flora and fauna of Eastern Ghats and livelihood of the tribals. Since then the powerful mining lobby has been exerting tremendous pressure for revoking this suspension and it was as part of that effort that the central government deputed this team to visit the Agency area. The central team was led by former Director General of Forests J C Kala. This is the same person who earlier as the chairman of the National Environmental Appellate Authority rejected the petition filed against bauxite mining by the then CPI(M) MP and president of AP Girijana Sangham, Dr M Babu Rao. He is perceived as being close to the private corporates involved in the mining business.


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.




Around 40 per cent of total bauxite reserves in India are situated in the four mandals of Chintapally, Araku, G K Veedhi and Anantagiri in Visakhapatnam Agency area. The Congress rulers in the state and their corporate friends have conspired to loot these natural resources. The union forest and environmental ministry granted permission for bauxite mining during the tenure of Y S Rajashekar Reddy despite overwhelming opposition from the tribals. The Indian partner in the AnRak company, Pennar Cements owner Pratap Reddy had earlier worked as the treasurer in AP Congress Committee. The business ambassador of Ras al Kaimah emirate, Koneru Prasad, alias ‘Dubai’ Prasad is presently in jail facing CBI inquiry into his role in the Emaar-APIIC township scam. Such is the nexus and it explains why all the three chief ministers of the Congress in the past few years are hell bent on allowing these companies to mine bauxite reserves in Visakhapatnam Agency area. In fact, K Rosaiah as chief minister even gave away Nakkapalli port to AnRak company while the present chief minister is doing everything possible to lift the suspension of mining of bauxite reserves. The suspension was imposed by the centre following the police firing on protestors at Kakarapalli. The present central team was sent with the express mandate to recommend lifting of the suspension. Knowing this, the tribals are doubly resolved to fight against the anti-tribal government stand.




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.