The other side of Bellary PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 29 July 2011 00:00
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Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde and his team have done a sterling job in going through 4 lakh records and 5 million entries to come up with the report that quantifies the loss to the government at R16,085 crore over a 4-year period—given the levies are quite small, this means the volume of illegal mining would be truly stunning. Which is why the report names 787 public officials, apart from so many politicians including Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa who has finally been asked to quit. Given that there is also a parallel probe from the Supreme Court, based on the Lokayukta interim report given in 2008, it is certain some action will get taken—since the Lokayukta had said that 99 mining firms had encroached upon 1081 ha of land, taking their total land to 9,704 ha, the Supreme Court had constituted a Central Empowered Committee to investigate the issue. So far, the CEC has managed to examine 35 mines, which produce around 30 mn tonnes of Bellary’s 45 mn production—it has allowed 6 to carry on working, allowed another one to start if it wants to. All told, mines producing around 25 mn tonnes have been told to shut shop for now. Reports on the remaining mines should be out by the end of August.


Whatever those reports might say, if a substantial chunk of Karnataka’s mining is stopped, this will hit the steel industry badly since importing this amount of iron ore is logistically impossible—roughly a fifth of India’s steel industry is in the state, employs around 80,000 people directly and generates over R10,000 crore of revenues for the state and central government. So, one of the first tasks of the new chief minister, along with various Union ministries, has to be working out a game plan to keep these industries going. It is important to also categorise these violations in terms of their degree of severity—of the Lokayukta’s 1,081 ha of violations, 147 ha was for extracting iron ore in mines that didn’t belong to the mining licensee, 306 ha for dumping ore and dirt on someone else’s land, 125 ha for building roads on someone else’s land … All violations cannot have the same penalty of being asked to shut down, Perhaps the Union environment ministry needs to be brought into the picture?

Given that the problem of illegal mining really got exacerbated when global prices skyrocketed, perhaps it will be a good idea to keep in mind Justice Hegde’s suggestion that the mines be allocated on a captive basis to steel-making firms. Apart from ensuring there is more value addition within the country, it also ensures a healthier revenue stream for the government—there is also enough evidence to show that organised mining, including that by captive miners, damages the environment less.



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