The Burning issue of Niyamgiri and tribes affected

The Burning issue of Niyamgiri and tribes affected

Question:-Recently, hundreds of people joined the protests held at Niyamgiri hills in Odisha. Explain the reason for Niyamgiri hills being in limelight. Also give the details about the tribe affected.

About Niyamgiri hills – The Niyamgiri hills form the Eastern range in the state of Odisha and they cover the districts of Kalahandi and Rayagada.

90% of the tribal areas in India are rich in mineral resources. The Niyamgiri hills are rich in Bauxite mines.

About the tribe – The Niyamgiri hills of Odisha are home to more than 8000 people of the Dongria Kondh tribes. They are believed to be from the Proto-Australoid ethnic group. They speak the language of Kui.

The tribe worshiped the hills considering it to be the seat of the god Niyam Raja.

Issue – Recently, the hills of Niyamgiri came into the limelight. Vedanta Resources which is an UK based mining company was trying to exploit the bauxite mines of Niyamgiri hills.

The Dongria tribes depended on the hills for their livelihood and were against the Vedanta company. They were not willing to get displaced from their areas.

The company planned to create an open – cast mine that would have destroyed the Niyam Dongar and disrupted its river. It would have bought the downfall of the Dongria Kondh.

They feared the pollution which would be created out of the coal mines would affect health and damage their crops.

The government had to interfere in order to find a solution. The government asked the company to contribute a few profit for the development of the tribes. But no development packages could cure the problem of the tribes.

Protest – As the hills were a major part of the lives of the people, they did not want the company to exploit the forests and cause an harm to the environment.

During the Niyam Raja Parab this year, the tribals held a protest to express their dissatisfaction against the exploitation of mines.

Earlier the festival of Niyam Raja Parab, used to be a low key affair but today, it attracts many tribal people. They burnt the copies of land acquisitions ordinances which was published by the Narendra Modi government.

They enchanted the slogan of “Paaen, Pawan, Jharan, Dangar, Sabu Nijara” (Water, air, stream, hill, slope, are all ours) to show their discontentment.

Verdict – The Mining ministry allowed the company to take up the mining activity in the hills of Niyamgiri. Later on, the clearance of the forest for this project had been rejected following a directive of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests in August 2010. It was challenged by the Odisha Mining Corporation in the Supreme court.

The Supreme Court had ordered the state government to organise gram sabhas under the Forest Rights Act of 2006, to take a final decision on the issue based on the people’s opinion.

In 2013, the Palli sabhas (gram sabhas) were held in the hills of Niyamgiri to decide whether the project of Vedanta should be allowed or not. Due to the massive protest, the Vedanta Resources had to loose the battle to dig the bauxite mines.

Recently, in the final verdict on the controversy, the Environment and Forestry Ministry of Government of India, rejected the mining project. The people were ultimately given a right to take a decision by the Supreme Court. This led to a great relief which was enjoyed by the tribal people.

Facts and Figures

- Niyamgiri hills is situated in the state of Odisha.

- Vedanta was founded by Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal.

- Niyamgiri hills is home for the Dongria Kondh tribe.

- The Niyam Raja Parab is the main festival of the tribes.

- The plan of the Vedanata Resources states that the work would continue for 16 hours a day, 6 days a week for 23 years.
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