ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Mining in Tribal Habitats of Araku Valley

Tragedy of the Commons Revisited (II)

Reviewing the manner in which tribal lands in the Araku Valley of Visakhapatnam district have been encroached upon by mining companies, this article argues that the various routes through which the commons are being eroded signal the urgent need for improving our models of the commons. This will help devise better vocabularies and strategies for a livelihoods-based approach to ecological conservation as opposed to an accumulation-based one.

There has been extensive legislation1 in India to protect forests and tribal habitats from encroachment by outsiders (Menon 2007). The most recent, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA hereafter) has enhanced this protection by taking a reasoned position that conserving forests and recognising the rights of forest dwellers (individual and community) are not conflicting but mutually reinforcing goals.2 Yet, in practice, outsiders have often rendered forests and their dwellers vulnerable to ­incursions and encroachment.

We take the case of the Araku tribal economy in Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh (AP) to examine how the post-liberalisation Indian state, in the form of the state government, has played a key role in speeding up incursions into the tribal commons. In Araku, two private companies have been sele­c­ted for bauxite mining – Jindal South West Holdings Ltd (JSWHL)3 and ANRAK.4 Memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were signed between the AP government and these companies in 2005 and 2007 respectively. A port, Nakkavaram, has already been dedicated to exclusive use by ANRAK. Attempts are on to build ­refineries outside the scheduled areas that will become operational when bauxite mining begins (Suchitra 2012). It may not be easy for these companies to overcome legislative protection and public resistance but they are attempting to do so in various ways. This article throws light on some of these processes in the Araku region and attempts to draw broad lessons from the experience.

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