Colossal illegal mining in Karnataka worth Rs.150 bn: Apex court panel

April 15th, 2011 - 11:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Bangalore, April 15 (IANS) In a damning indictment of affairs in Karnataka, a Supreme Court-appointed panel said Friday that illegal mining in the state was on “a colossal scale” and could be worth over Rs.150 billion (Rs.15,245 crore).

Extensive illegal mining in several states such as Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa “pale into insignificance when compared to the illegal mining on colossal scale that has taken place in the state of Karnataka, particularly in district Bellary”, the panel said.

Bellary, a mineral rich district, is about 300 km from Bangalore and borders Andhra Pradesh.

The panel - the Central Empowered Committee - appointed following a petition by a Karnataka-based non-governmental organization, submitted a five-volume report on the illegal mining to the apex court in New Delhi Friday.

The CEC said illegal mining was on “with the active connivance of the officials of the concerned departments and also the public representatives”.

The court’s forest bench comprising Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice Aftab Alam and Justice K.S. Panicker Radahakrishnan issued notice to the Karnataka government for its response to the CEC report.

They fixed April 21 for further hearing as amicus curiae Harish Salve wanted an early hearing so that an interim order could be passed to contain the massive illegal mining.

Pointing to the “massive scale” of illegal mining on in Karnataka, the CEC said in its report that in monetary terms it comes to a whopping Rs.15,245 crore.

It referred to a December 2008 report of Karnataka Lokayukta (ombudsman) on illegal mining and said “unfortunately, hardly any perceptible follow up action and corrective actions were taken on his (ombudsman) findings.

“Meanwhile, the mining leases, continued. Out of 99 cases involving illegal mining, the survey and demarcation of only seven leases have so far been completed. The illegal mining not only continued, but in fact, increased manifold,” the report said.

“The forest cover in mining leases illegally granted in Ramghad Forest blocks (in Bellary) and other forest blocks as seen from satellite imageries have been wiped out.

“In spite of a firm stand taken by the forest department, mining leases illegally granted were allowed to be continued and iron ore worth hundreds of crores of rupees has been extracted.

“Illegal mining on a massive scale took place particularly during 2009-2010 even after the filing of the report by the Lokayukta. The connivance of the concerned officials is glaring. The satellite imagery vividly bring of the extent of illegal mining which perhaps runs into thousands of crores of rupees.”

The CEC noted that Karnataka Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa had himself stated in the assembly that out of 77.53 million tonnes of ore exported from the state between 2003-04 to 2009-2010 over 30 million tonnes was illegal and without valid permits. Of these illegal exports, over seven million tonnes was exported in 2009-10 alone.

It also pointed out that out of 800,000 tonnes of iron ore seized on March 18, 2010 from Belikeri Port (in Uttara Kannada district, about 520 km from Bangalore) 600,000 tonnes was found missing within two-and-a-half months of the seizure.

The CEC was critical of the present government for taking more than two-and-half years for “even seeking legal opinion” on the Lokayukta’s December 2008 report on illegal mining.

“This is simply not acceptable and indicates the extent to which the rot has set in and the vested interest(s) have a hold on the government,” it said.

“A number of mines are operating in areas adjoining the disputed inter-State boundary (between Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Bellary borders Andhra Pradesh). To curb illegal mining and transportation and disputes, it is imperative that the inter-State boundary is determined and laid on the ground immediately,” the CEC report said.

The damning indictment of successive state governments in the state came as a well a well-known freedom fighter in Karnataka, H.S. Doreswamy filed a petition in the high court in Bangalore for a probe by a central agency into illegal mining in the state.

Doreswamy, 91, said in his public suit that the state government has failed to stop illegal mining and a probe by a central agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was necessary to bring out the truth.

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