The inquiry into the acquisition of an allegedly bogus no-objection certificate (NoC) by the National Mineral Development Corp (NMDC) in order to mine in Chhattisgarh’s Bailadila, has been delayed by a week
The clearance to mine the Bailadila Iron Ore Deposit 13 in Dantewada, was allowed by means of the NoC, which was given to NCL, a joint venture of NMDC and the Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corp Ltd, in 2015. It was transferred to Adani Enterprises in December 2018.
Since the Bailadila hill range is a part of Schedule V of the Constitution, it is governed by the provisions of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996, which makes the consent of the Gram Sabha mandatory for any development activity.
The NoC, which was given by the Gram Sabha of Hiroli village, was alleged to be bogus by protestors.
From June 7, around 10,000 tribals protested against mining Deposit 13. Much like what had happened in the Niyamgiri struggle against Vedanta, the tribals of Bailadila also want to protect their local deity — Nandraj mountain.
On June 11, Chhattisgarh’s Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had put all activity in Deposit 13 on hold, following the protests.
One of the decisions taken by Baghel then was to conduct a time-bound inquiry into the issue of NMDC’s acquisition of bogus Gram Sabha consent.
“The protest was called off after the sub-divisional magistrate gave the assurance in writing on June 13 that the inquiry would be completed within 15 days,” Soni Sori, a tribal activist who was part of the protest against the mining of Deposit 13.
The hearing on the issue was supposed to take place on June 24 in Hiroli. For the same, the district administration had sent notices to 108 people who were signatories to the NoC, including the Hiroli Gram Panchayat secretary Basant Nayak.
However, the hearing could not take place as Nayak was absent. The villagers demanded that the hearing should take palace when he is present.
“The bogus Gram Sabha NoC was given by the Panchayat secretary and we want him to be present here in front of the people when the hearing takes place,” Mangal Kunjam, a local activist said.
This has delayed the inquiry by another seven days. The district administration has sent a notice to the secretary to appear before him within seven days, failing which action will be taken against Nayak.