Tribals oppose allotment of iron ore mine to NMDC, continue with strike

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Tribals’ agitation against the allotment of an iron-ore mine to the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) continued in Chhattisgarh’s restive Dantewada district despite the state government’s efforts to resolve the issue.

The agitation entered the sixth day on Wednesday even as production in NMDC’s Bacheli-Kirandul complexes remained affected. The two complexes in Dantewada district with 25 million tonne per annum (mtpa) capacity contribute a lion’s share to NMDC’s total output.

Asserting that the Bailadila iron-ore deposit No 13 housed their deity, thousands of tribals, under the banner of Sanyukta Panchayat Samiti, had recently gone on an indefinite strike. They had blocked the entry points, preventing employees from entering the complexes. As a result of the disruption, the NMDC is incurring a loss of Rs 12 crore per day.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel’s efforts to end the deadlock turned out to be in vain as agitators refused to call off the strike on Wednesday. “The CM is fooling the tribals,” fumed Manish Kunjam, President of the Adivasi Mahasabha.

The state government on Tuesday issued an order to immediately halt the project for now and also constituted a three-member committee to probe the alleged illegal felling of trees. The state government also assured the agitators that it would examine the gram sabha held in 2014 which the villagers’ say was fake. Authorities say that the gram sabha had given consent for developing the 10-mtpa mine.

“The agitators are demanding that the all probe should be completed within three days while the administration wants at least 15 days,” a senior official in Dantewada said. The other demands include scrapping the appointment of Adani Enterprises Limited (AEL) as mining contractor.

AEL had bagged the contract in December 2018 after winning the global bid. The company in a statement had said that AEL had not commenced its project yet and would initiate any activity only after all the mandatory requirements were met by the owner NMDC-CMDC Limited. As of today, AEL does not have any presence in Kirandul for mining purposes, the statement added.

Meanwhile, Congress MP Deepak Baij said that the local administration had been trying to convince the tribals to call off the strike after chief minister’s assurance.

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