ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Unscrupulous Mining Lobby

Illegal mining continues to flourish in Karnataka, backed by political patronage.

A political controversy has raged in Karnataka since the resignation of the Lok Ayukta N Santosh Hegde in late June over his inability to curb illegal mining in the state. The Lok Ayukta cited non-cooperation from the state government even as his department found prima facie evidence of overloading of trucks with ore beyond permissible limits, and their easy transport through negligent check posts at the state’s borders. Even as the political opposition has demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the cases of illegal mining, the political clout enjoyed by the mining lobby within the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government has thus far prevented the state government from doing anything worthwhile to address the complaints. More so, considering that the mining lobby – identified with the “Reddy brothers”, G Karunakara Reddy, G Janardana Reddy and G Somasekara Reddy from Bellary and their cohorts – had the state government on tenterhooks last year, by threatening to lead a revolt of BJP legislators. The storm was weathered only after officials and ministers – seen to be obstacles to the unhindered mining activities by the lobby – were removed from government. Despite accepting that practices of illegal mining persist in the state, the chief minister has been both unable and unwilling to take sufficient action, fearful of the clout wielded by the Reddy brothers, seen as immense political assets by the right wing BJP.

The case of iron ore mining in Karnataka surely conforms to the widely held view that mining and mineral extraction represents the worst form of primitive accumulation and crony capitalism in India today. The explosion in demand for steel, particularly in the construction sector in China, had resulted in a “boom” via exports in the mining industry in the state, particularly in Bellary district, which is estimated to have reserves of about 1,000 million tonnes of iron ore. Annual extraction has substantially increased from 2000 onwards, with production and export of iron ore peaking at 184 million tonnes and 90.8 million tonnes respectively in 2005-06. The Lok Ayukta’s report on mining in 2008 had highlighted numerous irregularities in Bellary district, besides blaming even the former Congress chief minister Dharam Singh for providing illegal mining leases.

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