Unshakable: Nimalapedu Vishakapatnam, Andhra Pradesh

  • 30/08/2002

Unshakable: Nimalapedu  Vishakapatnam, Andhra Pradesh Where the spacious black topped 20-km long road ends, India ceases and the republic of Nimalapedu starts. Life takes a different meaning altogether: "Here people rule,' says Sambhu Pollana, the head of the village's gram sabha. The 200 residents are busy harvesting their first crop of paddy in June, unmindful of the fact that the state's one-third villages have been declared drought-stricken. "We have to prepare for the second sowing immediately,' adds Pollana. Three crops a year and a kitchen garden in each household make the village prosperous; so much that once it told the district collector that the village would feed him and his hundreds employees for a month.

Pollana should know it better. In 1992, his village was threatened to be bulldozed by the earth-removers of a private mining company to extract bauxite. He was told to move out of the village and to settle somewhere else. But a brief meeting of the residents changed the course of their life. "We can't move without the perennial stream and the few tamarind and mango trees,' the village meeting decided. Thus began a four-year-long legal battle to throw out the mining company from Pollana's village.

In 1996, the Supreme Court gave its verdict: In the Fifth Scheduled areas, nothing can be taken without the consent of the gram sabha. The gram sabha didn't give the consent to the company. The company had to abandon its Rs 250 crore investment and Pollana declared sovereignty. Since then nobody from the government visits the village. "The biggest lesson is how to govern,' says Karingi Ramana, a resident.

That spacious black-topped road, built by the mining company to transport bauxite from the mines, remains a metaphor for the village's