TNI Bureau: The political battle between the state and Centre took an interesting turn amid the controversy over the Niyamgiri Hills in Kalahandi with the package announced by Union development minister Jairam Ramesh, who had cancelled Vedanta’s proposal for mining in Niyamgiri when he was the Union Environment and Forest minister in 2010.
During his visit to Niyamgiri hill in Lanjigarh on Sunday, Ramesh announced a development package for Kalahandi district to woo the locals ahead of the 2014 general elections. He unveiled a package, including Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) houses for 2100 Dongria and Kutia Kondh families, who are living near the Niyamgiri hill at Lanjigarh. Under the scheme, each family would get Rs 75000 to construct an IAY house. A total of Rs 200 crore would be spent on the project.
He also announced to set up procurement centres for non-timber forest produce (NTFP) at Lanjigarh. Rs 100 crore will be spent under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana to provide road connectivity to all villages where 250 people are living. Campaigning for the Congress, he also said that 309 tribal youths of the district are getting the skills training for the livelihood.
While state government was fighting for the nod to Vedanta for Niyamgiri bauxite project, Ramesh’s announcement will make Congress image more clear showing the party’s support to Dongria tribes, who were opposing to the mining in Niyamgiri.
Ramesh assured the tribal people that nobody can take away their property and Niyamgiri hills from them. Media had expected that the minister will speak something about the mining of Niyamgiri, but he talked about AICC’s general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Nuapada district in 2008 to launch his ‘Discover India’ campaign.
Ramesh visited Ijurpa village near Lanjigarh to meet Dongria tribes saying his visit was aimed to ‘Recover India’. Following the path of Congress leader Rahul, Ramesh also played tribal card in the district. He avoided the questions related to Niyamgiri hill saying the matter is pending in the Supreme Court.
He said that he has visited the district not to do politics. “Being the minister of rural development, I have certain responsibility and I must ensure that all poor people, including the tribals, of the district get benefits of MGNREGS,” said Jairam.
Ramesh made it clear that the Centre intervened in the project on the basis of allegations that the lands of the tribal people were forcibly taken away from them by the state government. The Center focuses on the development of tribals. Expressing his big concern for the tribal people in the area, he said that there was no medical facilities, no, road and electricity in the area for which the Maoists are dominating the innocent people.
He questioned why the Vedanta wanted to lift bauxite from the Niyamgiri hill where there were not plenty of the raw materials available.