Union minister for tribal affairs and lone BJP MP from Odisha Jual Oram today said he will strongly defend the interest of Odia people on the controversial Polavaram project that is likely to cause large scale displacement and submergence.
“Being an MP of the state, I will fight for the interest of the state. I will extend full support to whatever stand the state government takes over the Polavaram project issue if it is in the interest of Odisha,” he said at a press conference here.
He, however, blamed the Odisha government for not putting up a strong fight over the issue and for not dealing the matter with the seriousness it deserves.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik recently met Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the issue and briefed him about the position of the Odisha government. Meanwhile, the central government has already allowed the project implementing agency to go ahead with the project.
Odisha, along with Chhatishgarh has been opposing construction pattern of the proposed dam near Polavaram, fearing it would necessitate submergence of nearby tribal villages coming under its jurisdiction. The matter is pending with the Supreme Court.
Oram said issues related to education, health, communication, electrification and irrigation facilities for tribals in the scheduled areas would get the maximum attention while revealing the five-point agenda that would be accorded top priority by his ministry. These issues are also the primary focus of the NDA government, he said. Oram reviewed various development schemes and programmes meant for the tribal people in Odisha during a meeting with state government officials on Saturday. He said atrocities against the tribal people and girl students in residential schools have been on the rise in the state and they need to be dealt with in a resolute manner.
The Union minister also informed that a minimum support price (MSP) policy will be implemented for 10 minor forest products so that the tribal and poor people in the country, who collect these items from the forests are not cheated or forced to sell these items at throwaway prices.
Speaking on Tribal Land Right Act, he said the ministry will review the issues relating to complaints that the land belonging to the tribal people have been grabbed by mines and various projects across the country. As per the rules, the ownership of the tribal people can not be alienated without the prior permission of the concerned state government.
He also said he will not hesitate to protest any project proposed by the state or Central government, if it involves displacement of tribals.
Replying to a question on allocating Khandadhar mines to Posco, he said his stand against mining in Khandadhar remains unchanged. “My stand against leasing out Khandadhar mines remains unchanged. I will protest mining activities there. I am against the project that involves grave damage to the environment and causes displacement,” said the Union minister. Oram said that he will pursue the matter with the Union ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) and see that the ministry does not come under any pressure to accord environment clearance to the project.