Ramesh opposes private mining in Maoist-hit areas



Bhubaneswar: Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Thursday strongly opposed private mining in areas affected by Left wing extremism on the ground that it allows Maoists to extort money from companies.

Ramesh, who as Minister of Environment and Forest had pleaded against private mining in Maoist areas, said: "I continue to hold the view that particularly in Saranda... given the fact that....This area has been liberated after 11 years of Maoist control, we should not allow private mining."

Accusing the Maoists of speaking in two voices, Ramesh said "they try to instigate the tribal people by saying private mining will come and destroy your livelihood but at the same time, these extremists welcome private mining because they can extort, impose a levy and get money from companies.

"But I'm clear in my mind that our priority in Saranda and places like Saranda is to deliver basic development services like roads, employment, housing, productivity ... enhancement of productivity," he said.

"These are the real priorities and if there is private mining there will be an influx of outsiders. The local people will not get jobs," Ramesh pointed out, adding the situation will further aggravate in case outsiders get the jobs.

To a question on non-inclusion of the Odisha portion of the forests in the Saranda Development Plan, Ramesh said: "The Centre had been contemplating to include this portion of the forest in the plan."

Ramesh, who said 25 per cent of Saranda forests (on Odisha-Jharkhand border) fall in Odisha, advocated development activities in zones liberated from Maoists clutch instead of starting mining.

PTI