For the first time, the Centre has urged the governor to use his special powers in Scheduled Areas to cancel bauxite mining leases given in Andhra Pradesh's Vishakhapatnam district.
Linking the issue of bauxite mining to the growing Maoist violence on the Andhra-Odisha border, the Centre has asked Andhra Pradesh governor ESL Narsimhan to use special powers, bestowed to governors in Scheduled Areas under the Constitution, to cancel the leases.
The Centre is studying mining leases in Odisha to recommend a similar action. Speaking to ET, tribal affairs minister V Kishore Chandra Deo confirmed the move: "We have urged the governor to use his special powers, which he can for good governance and peace. He is examining the case and we hope he will take appropriate action to protect the interests of tribals."
The government views mining leases given out by government-owned Andhra Pradesh Mining Development Corporation (APMDC), between 2005 and 2010, as violation of constitutional provisions. The Alienation of Land Transfer Regulation Act prohibits a non-tribal from either purchasing any land or even leasing it in Scheduled Areas.
Schedule V of the Constitution vests an independent legislative authority in the governor. It "empowers the governor to make regulations for the peace and good government of a state or a part thereof including regulations relating to Land Alienation and Transfer Allotment of land, and money lending."
So far, the governor has never used these powers in Scheduled Areas. Before the Centre recommended action, the ministry studied Supreme Court judgements on governors' special powers and sought legal opinion of the Attorney-General.
"The projects have been undertaken without proper rehabilitation for tribals. The governor can use his special powers to even decide that certain laws of legislature or Parliament do not apply to a particular area. These leases are mere executive orders and not even enactments of legislature."
Interestingly, the leases recommended for cancellation were given during the tenure of YS Rajasekhara Reddy. Making a case for cancellation, Deo has written to the governor saying, "between 2005 and 2010, the government had signed MoUs with several companies which are neither owned nor controlled by people belonging to Scheduled Tribes.
This was further compounded when the then government of Andhra Pradesh recommended 13 more applications in favour of APMDC for prior approval of mining lease. It may be noted here that APMDC is not an organisation or undertaking that either belongs to or is controlled by Scheduled Tribe communities."
The Centre has pointed out that the entire region has become a hotbed of Maoist activities. Urging the governor to use his "unbridled and unfettered powers", Deo has written, "you will also appreciate the fact that extremist activities have now reached a point which is threatening our national security.
Your intervention at this stage will not only strike at the basic premise on which the Maoists have gained sympathy but will also send a strong message across the borders of Andhra Pradesh to other affected states like Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand..."