Plight of poor in mineral-rich Odisha district under NHRC scanner

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought an Action Taken Report (ATR) from the Chief Secretary and the Keonjhar district Collector over the plight of people in the mineral-rich Keonjhar district.

Acting on a petition filed by activist and lawyer Radhakanta Tripathy, the NHRC passed the order yesterday.

Keonjhar district is one of the highest Royalty paying districts of India so far as mining is concerned. But as far as the level of poverty, malnutrition, literacy, deprivation of bare necessities and basic amenities are concerned, the inhabitants of the district are crying for their basic human rights due to the apathy, negligence and failure of the state government and the district administration, the petitioner stated.

The environment pollution, soil and water contamination, acid rock and seepage, air pollution, lack of potable drinking water, unavailability of proper road and digital communication are the main problems faced by most of the villagers in the district. The fundamentals required to develop the quality of human life in the district require proper bottom-up planning by involving Gram Sabhas especially of mining affected areas on the aspects of responsible mining and transparent utilisation of District Mineral Funds and Corporate Social Responsibility funds.

The Government at Center, state and the district administration must consider on top priority the Climate and environment emergency, violation of human rights of the vulnerable people going on for decades in the district, Tripathy contended.

Even if collection of Royalty Taxes in different forms shows one of the highest revenue sources of the state and the center, the people especially the dalits, tribals and those living in rural areas live in misery. The anemic mothers and the underweight children with low life expectancy of the common man living in the district pose serious questions of human rights, Tripathy alleged.

“In the instant matter, complainant Radhakanta Tripathy has alleged that District Administration of District- Keonjhar/State Government has failed to ensure the bare necessities of life and basic amenities to the residents of Mine-affected villages in Keonjhar District despite direction of the Commission in previously registered case on similar issue.

“It is averred that failure on part of the State to ensure health care, education, safe drinking water, and all weather roads amounts to serious violation of human rights. Hence, seeking intervention of the Commission in the matter for various reliefs for villagers of affected District”, the NHRC in its order stated while seeking ATR from the authorities concerned within four weeks.

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