Nimmalapadu in Andhra Pradesh is mostly tribal dominated area and the residents are mainly farmers. They used to cultivate three crops a year by managing the flow of a small stream into the village.
Aditya Birla Group's Birla Periclase wanted to mine calcite in the area to produce magnesia at its factory located 110 km away in Visakhapatnam.
Because of calcite mining in the village, large tribal population would have been displaced. In 1987, the company started to dig in the village land. Government officials also asked the villagers to vacate the land. At that time Government offered very meager compensation (about Rs 5,000 per family).
Determined not to allow mining in their village, the people of Nimmalapadu began a struggle against the government and Birla Periclase. Samata, an NGO based in Hyderabad, helped the villagers in organising the agitation. On the advice of Samata, the villagers filed a case in the High Court, which they lost in 1995 .
But Samata took up the cause and filed a case in the Supreme Court on behalf of the villagers. A 10-year struggle led to a historical judgement in 1997, widely known as the Samata judgement, in which the Court ruled that the state had no right to grant leases in areas governed by the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. Only cooperative societies jointly run by tribals could mine in such areas.
Birla Periclase is a subsidiary company of Indian Rayon and Industries; it was given a lease of 120 acres in Nimmalapadu in 1987. The land was given to extract calcite, one of the principal raw materials for the company's Sea Water Magnesia plant near Bheemunipatnam in Vishakhapatnam district. It was not only the lease that raised the alarm among the adivasis, but also the infrastructure facilities provided by the state government to facilitate the mining operations. The state government shared 50% of the cost of constructing roads, acted as a 'facilitator' to acquire land for a 22 km long road, with width varying from 25ft to 90 ft, and promoted construction of road for the actual operation site in the name of âpublic purpose'.