Visakhapatnam: 13-year-old girl rescued from brick kiln at Padmanabham

The Hindu | Staff Reporter | 13 Feb, 2022

Action will be taken against brick kiln owner, say officials

Members of Childline Services, Labour Department officials and the city police conducted raids on a brick kiln industry and rescued a 13-year-old girl who was allegedly made to work at the industry at Krishnapuram village under Padmanabham Police Station limits here on Sunday.

The teams conducted raid based on the complaint received by the District Collector, Child Welfare Committee (CWC) members and the city police from Visakhapatnam-based NGO Samata and Odisha-based NGO KBK Resource Centre.

According to Coordinator of Childline (1098) services David Raju, it was alleged that a four-year-old and 13-year old girl, daughters of one Raju, were made to work at the brick kiln industry. Raju is from Nandupala village of Balangir district of Odisha. “In the investigation, we found that only 13-year-old girl was made to work. The Labour Department as well as police officials are initiating action against the owner of the brick kiln industry as per law,” he said.

‘No molestation’
Meanwhile the Childline officials also ruled out the allegations of molestation against the wife of Raju and his minor daughters. “We have spoken to the wife of Raju. There were no such incidents,” Mr. David Raju said.

With the help of the Police Department, the family is being sent to their native place in Odisha.

Visakhapatnam: NGOs allege child labour and molestation at a brick kiln

The Hindu | Special Correspondent | 13 Feb, 2022

‘A middleman brought the family from Odisha to the kiln last year’

Odisha-based NGO KBK Resource Centre and Visakhapatnam-based Samata have lodged a complaint with the city police, District Collector and Child Welfare Committee on an alleged child labour and child molestation case at a brick kiln at Krishnapuram village in Padmanabham mandal of Visakhapatnam district on Saturday.

They alleged that a family from Nandupala village of Balangir district of Odisha, was trafficked to the kiln by a middleman, in October, last year.

The victim Raju Jal (40) had come to the kiln with his wife and three children, including two girl children, all aged between 4 and 13 years of age.

According to Sushant Panigrahi of KBK, Raju was not paid as promised and when he had asked he was not only allegedly assaulted but also denied payment. But he managed to escape and reach home, but his family members are being allegedly kept as hostage and even his four-year-old son is being made to work.

Mr. Sushant also said that Raju’s wife had spoken to them and had complained that the kiln owner’s son and his friends have been allegedly sexually molesting her and her minor daughters, every night under inebriated condition.

‘Prompt action promised’
“We have sent e-mail complaints to all the departments and have also spoken to them on Saturday, including the RDO and DCP (urban). We have been assured of prompt action,” he said.

AAL going for production shortly?

The Hindu | Sumit Bhattacharjee | 09 Feb, 2022

Activity picks up at plant, power plant trial run held

Anrak Aluminium Limited (AAL) which was set up in 2014 with an investment of around ₹6,000 crore at Rachapalle in Makavarapalem mandal of Visakhpatnam district, is yet to go into production. The plant was set up with an installed capacity of 1.5 million tonnes per year, but with the cancellation of G.O. 97 by the Jagan Mohan Reddy government and the company failing to get a linkage for bauxite ore, the operation of the plant has been stalled. Now there are strong rumours that the company is gearing up to start production and it is learnt that initially February 5 was the date given but it had to be postponed to a later date.

Initially, G.O. 97 had given permission to the plant to mine bauxite ore in Gudem and Chintapalle block in Visakhapatnam Agency, and the mining was to be done by the A.P. Mineral Development Corporation in the reserve forest area. But due to stiff resistance from the tribals who followed the Niyamgiri model of agitation, the YSRCP government had cancelled the G.O., sticking to its election promise.AAL, a joint venture between Penna Group and Ras Al-Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA), has been waiting since then to establish a bauxite linkage and start production.

Sources say that it has been importing bauxite ore from abroad and building up its stock. It is also learnt that AAL is going the Vedanta way that has an alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Odisha.After Vedanta failed to get its linkage from Niyamgiri due to the resistance, it had established linkages from other States such as Rajasthan and Gujarat. Sources say that apart from importing bauxite, AAL is also planning to take one mine from Vedanta on lease to establish domestic linkage. However, no AAL official could be contacted for confirmation.

Sources say that a railway line is being laid from Bayyavaram in Kasimkota mandal to Makavarapalem, along with a siding to unload bauxite.

Hinting that something is on at the company, a few employees confirmed that hectic maintenance activity was on and the trial run of the power plant has been conducted successfully.

Ravi Rebbapragada of Samata, who was the architect of the Samata Judgement, based on which mining in the Fifth Schedule area by private parties was banned, said, “We do not mind if AAL imports bauxite or takes a mine on lease in some other State, but it cannot mine in Fifth Schedule areas.”

Visakhapatnam: Adivasis do not want to trade their rights for new districts

The Hansh India | Rani Devalla | 02 Feb, 2022

Visakhapatnam: Known for its pristine natural beauty, lush green plantations, and aromatic coffee, Araku is set to become Alluri Seetharamaraju district with its headquarters as Paderu if the proposed reorganisation of districts becomes a reality. The new district to be carved out will have three Assembly segments-Paderu, Araku and Rampachodavaram spreading over 12,251-sq-km with a population of 9.54 lakh.

Araku, also a Lok Sabha constituency, stands out from other constituencies as its segments are branched out to four districts Srikakulam (Palakonda), Vizianagaram (Kurupam, Saluru and Parvathipuram), Visakhapatnam (Araku and Paderu) and East Godavari (Rampachodavaram). However, once the new districts are formed, the parliament constituency will be shared by two districts instead of four. While Alluri Seetharamaraju district will have three segments, the other four fall under the ambit of another new district Manyam. Known as Ooty of Andhra Pradesh, Araku Valley is one of the major tourist destinations in the Eastern Ghats. But, the Adivasi associations raise objections against the reorganisation of districts as they opine that the proposal could not be practically implemented, especially in Araku wherein the tribal areas of the constituency are protected under the Fifth Schedule. Since provisions like the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act are enforced in Araku, tribal activists express fear that challenges may crop up in implementation of the Acts after reorganisation of districts. “In case of reorganisation of districts, it should be done based on the ITDA mapping and in a scientific manner.

After all, formation of new districts is aimed at creating ease of administration. With a distance of 283-km stretching from Rampachodavaram to Araku, how far is it going to serve the purpose of administrative convenience?” wonders Ramarao Dora, district convener of AP Adivasi Joint Action Committee. Sharing their views, representatives of AP Adivasi, JAC say, “In the process of carving new districts, there is a scope for the existing scheduled areas being merged with non-scheduled areas and vice-versa. The exercise may not only lead to dilution of rights but also invites conflicts in future.”

For decades, the tribal activists mention, 553 Adivasi villages are left without being included in the Fifth Schedule. “What is the fate of such hamlets? In the process of formation of new districts, the Adivasis’ rights should not be diluted,” emphasises K Surendra, state leader of Girijana Sangham. Meanwhile, representatives of tribal associations demand that the views of the stakeholders should be considered before the state government takes the exercise of formation of new districts forward.

Nimmalapadu’s protracted struggle: Despite legal win, 3 Andhra tribal villages fight to save land from mining

Down to Earth | Shagun | Jan 29, 2022

Villagers near Andhra-Odisha border are fighting the state for calcite reserves two decades after securing Supreme Court victory

In 1997, the residents of Nimmalapadu, a village in Andhra Pradesh, achieved the unthinkable: They won a legal battle against the state government and a private company to save their village from mining.

The Supreme Court overruled a 1993 Andhra Pradesh High Court order in favour of the state government, it declared that only people belonging to the Konda Dora tribe and their cooperatives can exploit the minerals in Fifth Schedule areas and that private mining here, even with government backing, is illegal.

The verdict, popularly called the Samata judgement after the name of the non-profit that helped the people fight the case, adds that even if the state government decides to mine directly, it needs to keep the interest of the tribal people first.

Yet, over two decades later, the residents of the village near the Andhra Pradesh-Odisha border are fighting the state over their calcite reserves. Calcite is a mineral that is used in building material, abrasives, soil treatment, construction aggregate, pigment, and other applications.

The residents allege that the Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC), the state agency responsible for mining licences, has issued licences five times since 1997 to cooperatives or individuals from the state belonging to the Konda Dora community. Every time, it has found new ways to keep the people out of the process.

“The Durga Sandstone MAC Society gave Rs 2 lakh per year to people whose land was brought under mining. Landless residents were given Rs 1 lakh per year. It also enrolled some of the residents as members and gave them a salary,” says Latchanna Rao of adjoining Karakavalasa village.

The most recent attempt to undermine the people was made on March 16, 2021, when APMDC floated a tender to mine calcite in a 32.7-ha area, which will impact Nimmalapadu along with the neighbouring Karakavalasa and Ralagaravu villages. Within days of the tender, the residents got a stay order from the High Court on the grounds that they will not be able to apply as the tender only allowed bidding by contractors with experience in heavy-mechanised mining.

The petition was filed by Sri Abhaya Girijana Mutually Aided Labour Cooperative Society, a group floated by the residents who worked with Durga Sandstone MAC Society, and now want to mine directly.

“Our elders never wanted mining. But seeing the government’s persistence, we have decided it is better if we get involved,” says Chompi Balaraju, a member of the cooperative.

In April last year, APMDC removed the contentious clause and awarded a five-year-long mining licence to two contractors who belong to the Konda Dora community but are not from the three villages.

“The contractors have no experience in mining and will remain responsible for the mines only on paper. Private players, whom the people have been fighting for long, will start to exploit the land through them,” says Ravi Rebbapragada, executive director of non-profit Samata.

He adds that if the government was serious, it would award the contract to the people’s cooperative. The contractors can extract 4,000 million tonnes of calcite every month and will pay APMDC a fee of Rs 448 per tonne.

The residents allege the government agency has also not taken a go-ahead from the three gram sabhas before awarding the licences, as mandated under the Provisions of The Panchayats (Extension to The Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996.

“While 18 families have land in the proposed mining area, there are at least 130 families who are either agricultural labourers or cultivate on government land for generations without legal rights. All of them need to be compensated,” says Rebbapragada.

Based on their learnings from 2012, the residents are demanding royalty for their land, besides annuity till the time the project is operational. They also want a fund for rehabilitating the land after the company is gone. Other demands include employment, land for land, a cellular tower, a 24-hour doctor, and transportation facilities.

“Most of our demands are about development, which is ideally the work of the government. But the state has punished us for not allowing private mining. It has not carried out any developmental projects in the region since the 1970s when calcite was first found in the area,” says 60-year-old Pandana, who had actively participated in the struggle.

The nearest hospital is in Bobbili, a town some 40 km away. “There is a surge in malaria and typhoid cases because of poor sanitation. We also do not have good roads or reliable mobile connectivity,” says Balaraju. Education is another challenge with most children forced to travel to other villages or cities to attend good schools.

In December 2021, the contractors and APMDC proposed that they will only mine government land, and asked residents for approval. The residents have in response demanded `1.50 lakh per acre (0.4 ha) for families cultivating on government land. They also said that if the land adjoining the mines gets disturbed, the contractor will have to compensate for the same.

“Durya Rukmani, a former mandal parishad president and one of the new contractors, is trying to convince us informally. His people are organising cultural events and festivals. But we will not budge till the time they agree to all our demands and sign a legal contract for the same,” says Balaraju.

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