Civil society groups on Tuesday came together in support of Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (MSS) and demanded a response from Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan about the non-implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA) in the Mahan forests of Singrauli district.
"This has come two months after the Union Tribal Affairs Minister, V K C Deo wrote a letter to the State Chief Minister and Governor, about FRA violations in the Mahan forests in the Singrauli district," Greenpeace India Senior Campaigner and MSS activist Priya Pillai told reporters.
The state government has been tight-lipped about the issue and has not come out with any response, Priya said. "The Union Tribal Affairs Ministry has still not got a response from the Chief Minister. The State government cannot afford to drag its feet over the issue," said Priya who is an activist with MSS and has been working with villagers in Mahan for the past two-and-a-half years for implementation of the FRA. She said the MoEF granted Stage-I clearance to the Mahan coal block (alloted to Mahan Coal Limited - a joint venture of Essar and Hindalco) last year, along with 36 conditions which includes implementation of FRA.
However, the state government has gone ahead and given an NOC to the company on the basis of a fraudulent Gram Sabha resolution, Pillai said. A special Gram Sabha on FRA was held on March 6, 2013 in Amelia, which was attended by only 184 people, she said. But the copy of the Gram Sabha resolution obtained through RTI (after four months) has 1,125 signatures - most of them, the villagers fear, have been forged, Priya said.
At a joint press conference with MSS members on July 19, 2013, Deo had assured he will look into the matter. "We have come to Bhopal to demand our rights from the Chief Minister. The Tribal Affairs Minister had assured us of his support but the State government has not spoken a word on the issue," said Ujiraj Singh Khairwar, member of MSS and a resident of Amelia. The mine would render them homeless, Khairwar said and added that for generations they have been dependent on the forests for their livelihood.