Chhattisgarh: Villagers turn away officials probing claim that their consent for mine was forged
Residents of Hiroli village in Chhattisgarh on Monday refused to submit their statement to a government team looking into a letter allegedly forged in their name to approve iron ore mining in the region. The villagers demanded the presence of Basant Nayak, who was the panchayat secretary at the time and had allegedly forged the thumb impressions of 106 villagers and the signature of sarpanch Budhri Kunjam.
Budhri Kunjam had filed a police complaint on January 9, alleging her signature had been forged, and sought action against the district collector who had signed the letter before it was sent to the environment ministry. The complaint came a month after the state government gave Adani Enterprises Limited consent to start ground operations for the mine
The consent was predicated on environmental and forest clearances secured on the basis of the alleged fake letter submitted by the local administration, which showed that a gram sabha of 106 villagers had met and approved the project on July 4, 2014. Under the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, the approval of the gram sabha or village council is mandatory for any industrial or developmental project in Adivasi-dominated areas.
Several villagers in Hiroli had earlier told Scroll.in that no such gram sabha was held. The state government put the project on hold after a protest by more than 10,000 residents on June 7. Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel promised an inquiry, which is now under way.