The ongoing tribal agitation against bauxite mining by corporate giant Vedanta is intensifying across 22 villages in Odisha’s Kodingamali hill. The locals have been protesting for over five days to stop bauxite mining by the group, followed by a fresh hearing of the Gram Sabha. On the fifth day of protests, in a bid to suppress the growing resurgence, the Odisha government has now registered cases against 45 tribals and others on charges of disrupting law and order in the region.
Rabi Shankar, an activist and journalist who has been working with the tribals in the region, said, “There has been a notice that has come from the police that they are disrupting law and order. The list includes 45 names and others, which can be extended to include anyone else. This attempt has shown that the state is trying to scare off the tribals to give up on the resistance movement.”
The ongoing agitation has brought mining activity to a complete standstill as the villagers are currently blocking the road leading to the mines near Laxmipur that has suspended the transport of bauxite from Kodingamali to the Kakrigumma railway station. Shankar explained, “Over two hundred tippers carrying mining material have been parked now, those who were stationed at the mining camp have now all gone back home or are protesting.”
Also read: Stop Vedanta: Anti-Bauxite Mining Protests in Kodingamali Set Example of Resistance to Corporates
To pacify the locals, the Sub Divisional police officers and Tehsildars had come to visit the protesting tribals. However, they stated that they cannot do much, and also tried to convince the tribals to call off the protests. The locals are vehemently opposing all mining activities in the region alleging that the mines have ruined their lives, polluted their fields and rivers, and have failed to generate any employment. Issuing a demand charter, they stated that they require written assurances by the state and the district administration over the stopping of all mining activities. They are also seeking clarity over the periphery of mining activity. The locals are braving heavy rains to state that they will not leave their fields and have become security guards on their own lands.
Previously, women resisting the administration and Panchayati Raj representatives, had clashed with a local BJD leader who was urging them to stall the protests.
The Vedanta group is running the project on a lease given by the Odisha Mining Corporation to a private firm Mytri infra. The project had started in February 2018. Soon after obtaining clearances for the Kodingamali bauxite mine, the government of Odisha had introduced a new bauxite linkage policy. The Odisha Mining Corporation signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Indian mining company Vedanta to supply 70% of the bauxite obtained from Kodingamali to Vedanta’s refinery situated about 150 km away at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district. Vedanta had earlier been importing bauxite from countries like Brazil and Guinea as well as neighbouring states like Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh to feed its 2 million tonnes per annum refinery. In 2017, the Odisha Mining Corporation received forest clearance for developing a new bauxite mine in 435 hectares of forest land in the Kodingamali hill region.
The tribals living in the fringes of the Kodingamali hill have also alleged that their land was taken away on the promise of infrastructural development and job generation. However, nothing on the ground has materialised, therefore, they are now resolving to put an end to all mining activity.
*This is a developing story