Village councils in the Niyamgiri Hills of Odisha have last week voted decisively against mining in their area and decided the fate of billions of dollars in investment. With this, activists, policy makers and business leaders alike are confronted with a paradox that may well define our times.
On one side is a potential triumph of human rights and direct democracy. On the other side are anxieties about economic growth being slowed down by social and environmental concerns. There are also fears about scaring away international investors if India is seen as a location mired in conflicts between local people and industrial projects.