Even as Vedanta Resources mining plans in the Niyamgiri hills hang fire, a look at the Forest Rights Act and the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, or PESA, of 1996, show the necessity of prior recommendation from gram sabhas or the panchayats before grant of licence or mining lease for minor minerals in scheduled areas.
This, despite the fact that the Union or state governments have the first right over natural resources even if the said land was not fully inhabited. Similar recommendations are also mandatory for the exploration of minerals.
Under the Forest Act, the traditional rights and traditions of the local community have to be protected, said a senior bureaucrat from Orissa, requesting anonymity, adding, Their entire livelihood depends on it.
Ravikant, a Supreme Court lawyer, said under no circumstances could the Union or state governments forcefully acquire tribal land, adding the administration would have to first provide livelihood to tribals and honour their customary rights.