One of India's most well-known industrial groups, the Aditya Birla group is setting up a plant to extract aluminum and a thermal power plant in the Rayagada district of Odisha. To get environmental clearance and begin work on the projects, the company organised a public hearing of the villages that would get affected due to the mining and extraction of resources.
However, the villagers say only a select number of people were allowed entry into the public hearing. A large majority of villagers from 15 nearby villages were denied entry as their name was not on a pre-decided list. "Why are they holding this public meeting in secret and only 200 people are allowed in?" asked Niladri Patra, a local resident.
The list of 200 of these people was prepared by the mining contractor Baphlamali Srinivas Rao and a manager of the Aditya Birla group Suryakanta Mishra, ostensibly to minimise voices of opposition. Villagers who would lose land as a consequence of the project were not allowed into the hearing.
Reminding the stakeholders of the project, Prafulla Samantara, a well known environmental activist said any Indian citizen can participate in a public hearing. The way Utkal Alumina and HINDALCO (Aditya Birla) conducted this public meeting within a locked hall is illegal and villagers can go to court opposing this.
It seems like a repeat of a similar public hearing organised in Chhattisgarh during the peak of the second wave of COVID-19 in India. Thousands of people were called for the meeting where all COVID-prevention norms went for a toss.
To help the villagers call for a reorganisation of this public hearing in Rayagada in Odisha, call on the number provided at the end of this video.
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