C'garh: Tribals continue protest against mining on hill

Hundreds of tribals in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district continued their agitation for the fourth day on Monday against mining on a hill which they worship as a deity. (PTI File Photo)

Hundreds of tribals in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district continued their agitation for the fourth day on Monday against mining on a hill which they worship as a deity.

The hill is situated in the Bailadila iron ore mining area belonging to the state-owned National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC).

The protest has disrupted mining activities in three iron ore deposits of the NMDC in Kirandul, an official said.

Braving scorching heat, tribals from some 200 villages of Dantewada, Sukma and Bijapur districts, under the aegis of the Sanyukt Panchayat Samiti, have been sitting on the protest in front of NMDC's Kirandul facility since June 7.

The protesters, wielding bow and arrows, want the authorities concerned to abandon plans to mine the iron ore deposit no. 13.

"We have been agitating since last four days but have not yet got any assurance from the authorities," said Mangal Kunjam, said a protesting tribal leader.

As per the mining plan, over 25,000 trees will be cut in the area. So far, 10,000 threes have been chopped off. This will adversely affect the environment, Kunjam claimed.

"We will not allow mining on our sacred hill which is worshipped as our deity, at any cost," he said, adding that the protest will be continued till the demand is not fulfilled.

The hill is revered as the shrine of Pitod Devi, wife of nature god Nandraj.

Leaders from the Congress and Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) have extended support to the protest.

According to an NMDC spokesperson, the production of iron ore has been stalled in its three mines in Kirandul area due to the ongoing agitation while extraction in remaining two mines in the adjacent Bacheli area is unaffected.

The 10 MTPA capacity Bailadila iron ore deposit-13 at Kirandul is being developed by a joint venture company, called NCL, formed by NMDC and the Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation.

A contract for excavation and mine development was awarded to Adani Enterprises Limited last year, officials said, adding that currently, tree-cutting was underway to build an approach road to the site.

Meanwhile, state forest minister Mohammad Akbar on Monday said he did not give permission to cut trees in deposit no. 13 and that the nod was granted in January last year during the previous BJP government.

To a query, he said, "We will seek information in the matter and further action will be taken accordingly."

NCL's Chief Executive Officer V S Prabhakar earlier said his company was the owner of deposit no.13 and its mining lease was registered with the joint venture firm.

"The mining lease will not be transferred to Adani or to anyone else at any point in time. Any propaganda in this regard is condemned. Even after mining starts, the tribals can offer prayers there. Their religious rights will not be affected," he said. 

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