State's mine games make for celluloid material

Historian Ramachandra Guha, Lokayukta N Santosh Hegde,  journalist Sugata Srinivasaraju and retired IAS officer Chiranjeevi Singh at a discussion in Bangalore on Saturday. DH photo

The Karnataka Lokayukta has documentary evidence to establish the unabated export of iron ore from the State despite a state-imposed ban, according to Justice N Santosh Hegde.

Speaking at a panel discussion here on Saturday, Justice Hegde said the government order prohibiting the export has not “come into effect.” Iron ore-laden trucks reach ports in Krishnapatnam, Visakhapatnam, Kakinada and Chennai.

A kachcha road had been laid on a private land near Hagari checkpost, close to the Karnataka-Andhra border to allow movement of ore-transporting trucks, he said.

“We have found enough documents on the illegal activities of many people. Their names will figure in the final report to be submitted by March 31 next year,” Hegde said.

The Lokayukta expressed disappointment at the government ignoring his first report on mining in the State. He had recommended that iron ore be transported in closed containers, whereas the action taken report (ATR) submitted by the government stated that it had directed the mine owners to cover the ore with tarpaulins. But the size of tarpaulins was not specified. “This is how my recommendations are being treated by the government.”

Tough time

Later interacting with media, he said the Lokayukta staff had issues related to their security during investigation in Bellary. When asked from whom the threat was, he said, “I need not have to tell you the names. A former Bellary corporation president Padmavati was murdered in 2009. So far, no arrests have been made in the case. This alone explains the state of law and order in the district,” he said.

The panel discussion was preceded by the screening of a documentary film ‘Blood and Iron: A Story of the Convergence of Crime, Business and Politics in Southern India’, produced by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta of Delhi.

Thakurta, a journalist, exposes the influence of iron-ore mining on the state politics. It begins with Union minister for Mines B K Handique stating - “Bellary is synonymous with illegal mining”. Though the documentary does not establish illegality on the screen, it depicts how money earned through exporting natural resources changed the political contours in Karnataka.

The movie prominently features the Bellary Reddy brothers and their role in enthroning the BJP to power for the first time in Karnataka, and their efforts to destabilise the dispensation. Thakurta depicts the impact of mining on people’s health and vegetation in Bellary region. He said he chose to make a movie on illegal mining because he could observe convergence of crime, politics and business in the whole affair.

Historian Ramachandra Guha, in the panel discussion, expressed surprise at the enigmatic silence of Congress legislators over illegal mining.

Retired IAS officer Chiranjeevi Singh stressed for total nationalisation of natural resources.

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