Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Cuttack/Rourkela, Mar 28:
Elections to the Rourkela Municipal Corporation (RMC) is most likely to be put on hold as the Odisha High Court on Friday ordered an interim stay on the notification of the Odisha government for formation of the Corporation.
The directive of the court came in response to two separate writ petitions filed by the villagers of Jagada and Jhartarang panchayats.
Talking to the media, petitioners’ counsellor Naresh Chandra Jena said the state government had announced the formation of RMC on November 14, 2014 after including some scheduled areas in its jurisdiction.
“As per rules, there cannot be any municipality in any scheduled or tribal-dominated area of the state as per the provisions of the Constitution. As the state government had announced the formation of RMC by including Jagada and Jhartarang panchayats—the two scheduled areas, the people of these two panchayats had filed two separate writ petitions in the High Court while challenging the government notification. The court, in its order, has made it clear that there can be no activity on RMC related matter by the state government. In other words, the state government can neither have any activity relating to RMC elections and nor any change in notification it has made in this regard”, Jena said.
While the inclusion of these two panchayats under RMC jurisdiction by the government is anti-constitutional, it has also violated the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act under which the state government has to take the consent of the people of the village and the Gram Sabha. Besides, there would be open violation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) if these two panchayats are included in RMC’s jurisdiction as neither the tribal villagers of these two panchayats and nor their Gram Sabha would become the owner of common property resources under the FRA as they would lose their entity after their inclusion in the Corporation. The tribals would lose their economic, legal, social and cultural rights in the process, Jena pointed out.
Talking about the directive of the High Court, Biramitrapur MLA George Tirkey, who is presently leading the demonstration of the tribals under the banner of Sundargarh Adivasi Mulabasi Bachao Sangha (SAMBS), said the Sangha decided to withdraw its 20-day long agitation before the Rourkela Municipality Office following the directive of the court.
He, however, said that the Sangha would stage a dharna and demonstration in front of Raj Bhawan in Bhubaneswar on April 8 for a permanent solution to the issue.
Meanwhile, there was jubilation among the tribals here after they came to know about the High Court order this morning.
The state government had announced Municipal Corporation status to Rourkela Municipality about a year ago, before the last Assembly election by including these two tribal panchayats to meet the population criteria for the corporation.
The trouble started when some of the neighbouring areas of the city located on the outskirts of the municipal limits were included in the municipal corporation limits, which witnessed stiff resistance from different quarters.
The state government had ignored the resentment and the status of Municipal Corporation was formally accorded through a state government notification on November 14, 2014. The notification was rejected outright by the tribal community of the district leading to the birth of SAMBS, which has been opposing this notification since beginning.
SAMBS had staged an economic blockade in the district on January 20 and 21 demanding withdrawal of notification granting Municipal Corporation status to Rourkela.