August 23, 2015

Scrap MoU for Bauxite Mining in Araku Valley: CPI(M)

THE CPI(M) has demanded scrapping of the MoU signed for mining of bauxite ore in the picturesque Araku Valley in Visakhapatnam district. At a press conference in Visakhapatnam, CPI(M) Lok Sabha MP Jitendra Chaudhury said the TDP government in the state and the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre are paving the way for corporate loot of precious natural resources by undermining the law of land and environmental rules, which is leading to huge revenue loss and long-run impact on the socio, economic and cultural base of our country. He also condemned indiscriminate violations of the Forest Rights Act in BJP-ruled states. According to a CAG report, the MoU signed by the previous Congress government in the state with Jindal South West Holding Limited and Ras Al Khaimah of the UAE during 2005-2007 for mining of bauxite ore in the Araku Valley was aimed at only looting the precious natural resources. The bauxite ore in the area, an estimated 550 million tonnes valued at Rs 1 lakh crore, was grossly undervalued at only Rs 11,400 crore, which was further reduced to Rs 258 crore. "While APMDC (the Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation Limited) has been maintaining 11 per cent share to leases on other minerals like granite and beach sand, in case of bauxite it was only 1.5 per cent, which was leading to huge revenue loss," he said. Bauxite, being a poisonous ore, is profusely degrading the quality of water and land of the Araku Valley. No provision for checking environmental degradation had been entered into the agreement. This will have long run effect to the life and economy of the valley. The MoU signed on February 14, 2007 was valid for three years, but the earlier Congress and present TDP dispensations have not scraped it even today. As per the MoU, only 0.5 per cent revenue from the value added project shall be spent for health care and training of the tribal population of the region. Chaudhury said Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu's declaration on World Indigenous Day (August 9) to resume the mining depicts the persuasion of same pro-corporate and anti-people policy, despite the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry’s direction to scrap the MoU in 2012. He said the CPI(M) and the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch (AARM) will raise this issue in Parliament and mobilise the masses against this anti-people policies of BJP and its allies. The CPI(M) MP also slammed BJP-ruled states for indiscriminate violations of the The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. The Maharashtra government has been implementing the Maharashtra Village Forest Rules, 2014, despite the fact that these illegally attempt to block the rights of tribals and other forest-dwellers over non-timber forest produce - a vital part of their income. This is occurring despite repeated letters from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs that these are illegal. Despite this criminal violation of tribal rights, senior Union ministers Prakash Javadekar and Nitin Gadkari have been supporting the Maharashtra government's continued violation of rights. On June 4, the Madhya Pradesh government issued new village and protected forest rules that are even more grossly illegal than the Maharashtra rules. They reduce forest dwellers to mere collectors, force them to comply with plans of the Forest Department, and indirectly permit private companies to be involved in forest management. No response has been forthcoming from the central government in this regard, he said. On July 27, the Chhattisgarh government issued a letter to all district collectors directing them to obtain certificates from gram sabhas that implementation of the Forest Rights Act is "complete" by August 15. Since very few community forest rights have been recognised in the state, this is clearly illegal and an attempt to pre-empt proper implementation of the Act. Chaudhury said the Environment Ministry is proposing to pass the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill in Parliament, notwithstanding the fact that an almost identical bill was unanimously rejected in 2008 by the Standing Committee on grounds, among others, that it would violate the rights of forest-dwellers. The Bill makes no reference to forest rights at all and will encourage the takeover of large areas of common land in the name of "compensatory afforestation" by the Forest Department. The press meet was also attended by CPI(M) Andhra Pradesh state secretariat member Ch. Narasinagrao and Visakhapatnam district secretary K Lokanadham. (END)