Nagpur – High Court rejects PIL opposing iron ore excavation at Surjagarh

Nagpur : Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court has dismissed a petition opposing mining of iron ore from Surjagarh hills in Naxal-infested Gadchiroli district. The High Court upheld the decision of Maharashtra Government to mine the world-class iron ore deposits from Surjagarh hills. A division bench consisting of Justice Ravi Deshpande and Justice Vinay Joshi after a detailed hearing of petition filed by Kisan Patruji Barsagade and Sarita Lalsu Pungati, dismissed the same and found no infirmity and illegality in the decision taken by State Government.

From past several years, successive governments tried to rope in the private players to mine the iron ore deposits, but due to stiff opposition by naxalites and their violent tactics against officers of private companies, efforts yielded little results. The State and Centre Government leased the hill to M/s Lloyd Steels on May 3, 2007. Infact, a senior officer of company was brutally murdered by anti-national Naxalites to terrorise anybody trying to mine the iron ore deposits. The Naxals also tried to whip up the passion and instigate local populace against the project by raising different bogeys.

According to petitioners, the Surjagarh hills are integral part of tribal culture and thousands of tribals of Gadchiroli district are dependent on natural resources of this area and mining activity will deprive them from livelihood and also displace them from their native place. Since this is a scheduled area, the tribal land, forest and hillock can not be leased to any private individual, company, the petitioner claimed while alleging that lease was handed over in utter violation of the norms and decision was against the interest of tribals. The respondent authorities strongly countered this argument and stated that lease was entrusted only after scrupulously following the due process. The iron ore deposits and processing industry will promote industries and bring some prosperity to this tribal district and will generate thousands of jobs for the people, it was pointed out while assuring that interest of tribal population would be protected. The High Court found no merit in the petition and dismissed the same after hearing all the parties.

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