India’s tribal and forest dwelling population should send a thank you note to Vedanta’s promoter Anil Agarwal. You may be wondering why I would say such a thing, especially as Agarwal has been trying since 2005 to mine the hills held sacred by the Dongria Kond tribe that live in the area.In all likelihood, Anil Agarwal will have to give up on his dream of sourcing bauxite from the Niyamgiri Hills. The Supreme Court’s ruling giving the gram sabhas or village assemblies the power to decide has cast the die. Even before Thursday’s judgment, as recently as January Lado Sikaka, a Dongria Kond leader, told rural development minister Jairam Ramesh that they would oppose mining in the hills and the nearby deposits.
This is happening right now: The tribal communities living on Niyamgiri are deciding if their mountain is going to be destroyed, thanks to the decision by the Indian Supreme Court.
All in all there are something like 12 Gram Sabhas (community councils) and 3 so far have voted no. Follow @docuwallah on twitter to get the latest developments.
To me, the most impressive part of it is that Vedanta has invested scores of rupees in CSR in these villages and has not been able to convince anyone that development can give them anything they need. These things worked in the past – communities were bought with cheap trinkets, Native Americans with fire water, EastGermans with bananas and coke. I love how we are now dealing with people who are so wise that they can look through this. (Wiser than East Germans anyways.)