Panel Recommends Alcan Bauxite Project in India Be Abandoned

An eight-member multidisciplinary panel of the Indian People's Tribunal headed by Justice S.N. Bhargava (Ret'd.) enquired into alleged human rights and environment violations related to a bauxite mining project proposed by Utkal Alumina International, Ltd. (UAIL) in the Baphlimali Hills, located in Kashipur Block, Rayagada District of Orissa, and 45% owned by Canada's Alcan.

The Panel members visited Kucheaipadar which is the centre of the resistance against UAIL and has been a focus of state repression. The panel conducted spot visits to Lanjigarh, where Vedanta is operating, to understand the impact that such a project could have. The panel also received testimonies from the local tribals who would be affected by the coming up of the UAIL Project.

Taking into account their testimonies, the testimonies of experts, and the responses furnished by various ministries to letters sent under the Right to Information Act, the panel would like to recommend that the Government of Orissa should abandon the UAIL project with immediate effect.

The Panel investigated specifically into opposition by the local people, the overwhelming majority of whom are Scheduled tribes, and found that their voices are being met by repressive measures in the form of large scale arrests, disruption of public meetings by force, violent beatings to disperse gatherings, official encouragement to the employment of private goons by UAIL, midnight raids by the police, unmitigated violence on women and children, etc.

The granting of a mining lease to UAIL, a non-tribal entity, by the State Government of Orissa, is in flagrant violation of Constitutional mandates that have been upheld by the Supreme Court in Samatha v. State of Andhra Pradesh. Other constitutional provisions like the Panchayats Extension to the Scheduled Areas Act, (PESA) 1996, as well as state provisions like the Orissa Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property Act, 1956, which protect the Adivasi community's right to land and other natural resources, have also been unlawfully overridden.