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Odisha considering legal opinion over expansion of gram sabhas

PTI Bhubaneswar | Updated on June 14, 2013

The Odisha Government is contemplating taking legal opinion over the possibility of increasing the number of villages which will hold gram sabhas to decide on proposed bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills for Vedanata’s project.

The statement by the government’s Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste Development department on Thursday on the possibility of seeking legal opinion follows the Dangaria tribes appealing for Odisha Governor S.C. Jamir’s intervention in the dispute on the number of villages to hold the gram sabhas.

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) and local tribes have demanded conducting of gram sabhas in more villages and it has opposed the government bid to hold such meetings in only 12 of them.

“We are exploring legal angles to suggestions offered by MoTA on expanding the scope of gram sabhas. If required, views of the law department will be taken,” Secretary in SC & ST Development department Santosh Sarangi said.

“A close scrutiny of the Supreme Court order dated April 18 would suggest that the apex court is referring to the 12 hill slope villages where the gram sabha meetings were held earlier for settlement of claims under Forest Right Act,” he said defending the state government’s stand to conduct gram sabhas in 12 villages.

The Odisha government has already initiated steps for conducting gram sabhas in the 12 villages of Niyamgiri hills located in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts, but Niyamgiri Surakshya Samiti (NSS), an apex body of local tribals, has demanded such meetings in 104 villages.

Published on June 14, 2013

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