Our Bureau

Visakhapatnam, Jan. 11

GIRIJANS in the agency (tribal) tracts of Visakhapatnam district are opposing the bauxite mining proposed to be taken up by the Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC) for supplying the ore to an alumina smelter to be set up by the Jindal group.

Several NGOs and the communist parties, the CPI(M) in particular, are carrying out a campaign against the State Government's move. They are educating the Girijans on the hazards of bauxite mining and mobilising them for a struggle against the project.

Beespuram, located amidst lush-green forests in the Anantagiri mandal of the district, is a tiny tribal hamlet with 45 families facing an uncertain future.

In a bid to persuade the Girijans, the Government officials arranged a trip for the locals to Damonjodi in Orissa to show them the progress made there after the National Aluminium Company (Nalco) set up an alumina plant. But the Girijans were not convinced.

"These hills are our lifeline. We depend on them for everything and eke out a living by collecting fuel-wood,

neem

,

karakaya,

amla

and

adda

leaves. How can we think of losing all this?" asks Ms Korra Nookamma.

She is one among the 47 tribals taken from Beespuram to Damonjodi. "We were not taken in by such hospitality. We were perturbed when the tribals in Koraput told us that Nalco did not provide them jobs. Those who were displaced were not given suitable compensation," she said.

Ms Gemali Ramamurthy, another villager, said they were not lured by the promises of the authorities.

Mr M. Babu Rao of CPI (M), the Lok Sabha member from Bhadrachalam parliamentary constituency in which the area falls, says: "To circumvent the judgment delivered by the Supreme Court, the State Government is now trying to extract bauxite through the APMDC."

(The ruling was delivered by the apex court when a public interest litigation was filed by Samata, an NGO based here, in another case against the Andhra Pradesh Government. According to the ruling, the State Government should not lease out properties or assets in tribal tracts and it should undertake exploitation of such resources on its own or through co-operatives of tribals. Private (outside) parties should not be brought in. The CPI(M) alleges that the APMDC would only serve as a dummy of the Jindal group to provide the raw material.)

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 12, 2006)
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