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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Avijit Adhikary is a journalist with nearly 8000 days of field experience till date. In the past two decades, he has witnessed the ebb and flow of the media industry in India, with ripples felt in his region too. This includes the rise of digital media, the decline of print...