Jairam for mining ban in tribal belts

Jairam for mining ban in tribal belts

A 20-year moratorium is necessary on mining projects in Andhra Pradesh where it may affect the livelihood sources of the tribal communities in the state, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has suggested. Mining in tribal areas is also likely to lead to increased Maoist activity, he has warned.

“Nowhere in the country has mining benefited the tribals. Only a few outsiders became rich while the locals remained poor,” Ramesh said while addressing a public meeting at G K Veedhi, a remote tribal hamlet in the coastal Andhra district of Visakhapatnam.

He urged Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy to ban mining in the region. “Wherever we have mining, we have Maoists. We need a different approach to the issue of mining,” he said at the meeting.

Union Tribal Welfare Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo, a local leader opposed to the proposed bauxite mining in the region, attended the meeting. He called for cancelling the MoU that the state government had signed with private mining companies.

“Rajiv Bala Sanjeevani,” a scheme to provide medical care to tribal children, was launched at the function. It was organised in the area which has been witnessing public resistance to the mining project.

The environmental activism of Jairam Ramesh in opposing the prestigious bauxite mining project has been a cause of worry for the Congress government in the state for some time now. Though the government is keen on going ahead with mining the bauxite reserves, Ramesh had made it clear that he would continue to oppose it in the interests of safeguarding the rights of the tribal residents.

The bauxite mining is a major issue in the region with tribals, rights activists, environmental groups and the Opposition parties resisting the project. The state-owned A P Mineral Development Corporation had signed agreements in 2007 to allot bauxite mining leases to Jindal South West Limited, which is part of OP Jindal Group, and ANRAK, a state-owned company of United Arab Emirates, in Visakhapatnam and Vizianagaram districts.

Those opposing the mining project argue that it would not only lead to environmental degradation but also displace thousands of tribal families.

Stating that it was imperative to protect the interests of those living in scheduled areas, Ramesh noted that Maoists had a strong presence in areas where the tribals felt unhappy and were not content.