A series of events reported in the last couple of months provides a very different meaning to democracy, one that harks back to its Greek origin (‘demos’ and ‘kratia’, or power of the people). Unlike the representative form that most countries have adopted, these events point more to a direct form in which people on the ground have the primary power of decision-making.
On March 16, five Adivasi villages in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh, unanimously vetoed the plans of South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL), a subsidiary of India’s public sector coal mining giant Coal India Limited (CIL), to mine their forests. These villages were Pelma, Jarridih, Sakta, Urba and Maduadumar.
On March 23, the Kamanda gram sabha of Kalta G.P in Koida Tehsil of Sundargarh district in Odisha unanimously decided not to give its land for the Rungta Mines proposed by the Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation of Odisha Limited (IDCO).
On May 4, the National Green Tribunal directed that before clearance can be given the Kashang hydroelectric project (to be built by the State-owned body Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd. or HPPCL), the proposal be placed for approval before the Lippa village gram sabha in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. The 1,200 residents of Lippa have been waging a seven-year struggle against the project.
And then on May 6, the Supreme Court rejected a petition by the Odisha Mining Corporation seeking the reconvening of gram sabhas in the Niyamgiri hills to consider a mining proposal that the sabhas had rejected in 2013. The court observed that the conclusion of the gram sabhas at that time was to reject the mining, and the petitioner would have to approach an appropriate forum if it wanted to challenge this.
What is the implication of these decisions taken at various levels?