HC notice a shot in the arm for GP members

The Karnataka High Court notice issued to District In-charge Minister Varthur Prakash and Mulbagal legislator Amaresh is a positive development in favour of the Mustoor Gram Panchayat members.

The members had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the High Court against the State government and the district administration, complaining that the latter had failed to take action against unlicensed sand mining in Mulbagal taluk, regardless of repeated requests.

The divisional bench, which heard the case on Monday, sent a notice to Varthur, Amaresh and 20 officers. It has also strictly ordered that action should be taken against unlicensed sand mining and that a report on it be submitted by December 2.

A decision had been taken on July 2 to stop unauthorised transport of sand within the panchayat limits. The panchayat members had also submitted memoranda to the deputy commissioner on July 19, 20 and 23, requesting action against unlicensed mining, but the requests were ignored, the members detailed in the PIL.

N Venkataramegowda, former president of Mustoor Gram Panchayat, residents within the panchayat limits N C Jagadishwara, B N Changalarayappa, K Venkataramanappa, Shiva Parvathi Stree Shakthi Sangha president Radhamma filed the PIL, guided by senior advocate M Shivaprakash.

Other recipients

Notices have also been issued to the chief secretary of the State government; the secretaries of the departments for Industries and Mining, Small Irrigation, and Transport; the director of the Mining and Geology Department; the senior geologist in the Department; the joint director of the Irrigation and Mining Department; the executive engineer of the Department for Small Irrigation; the assistant executive engineer of the PWD; the Deputy Commissioner; the District Superintendent of Police; the Deputy Forest Conservation Officer; the tahsildars of Kolar and Mulbagal taluks; the police inspectors of Mulbagal and Nangali and the executive officer of Mulbagal Taluk Panchayat, among others.

There are three to 3.5 thousand residents in the Panchayat, which has about five villages. The residents depend on agricultural activities for their livelihood, using the land in Nagavara, Byatanur, Nangali and Mustoor.

The Gram Panchayat members complained in the PIL that the indiscriminate mining activities have been destroying the fertility of the soil near the water tanks in the villages and even reduced the level of underground water. In addition, the unlicensed transport of sand to Bangalore has affected agriculture, they said.

They added that officers in the Mining and Geology Department, the Police Department and the Revenue Department were fully aware of the rampant mining but chose to turn a blind eye to the illegal activities. “The officers have all fueled the development of the sand mafia. The Panchayat and the women’s forum members have continued to fight agains the sand mining, but have lost the battle having to face the power of position and wealth. Sand is continuously mined at 15 acres and 20 guntas of the Nagavara tank, 124 acres and 34 guntas of the Byatanur tank, and 210 acres of Mustoor tank,” the members said in the complaint.

“The rule that the Mining and Geology Department, Regional Transport Office and the Revenue Department should open check posts and prevent transport of sand mining has remained only on paper. The officers have clearly failed to fulfill their duties as defined by the Constitution,” they complained.

‘Act immediately’

Shivaprakash, who spoke to Deccan Herald on Tuesday, demanded that the concerned departments be instructed immediately to take necessary action against unlicensed mining of sand in the area. “A high powered committee should be formed to deal with the issue. It has also been requested that the officers personally recompense the farmers in Mustoor Gram Panchayat area, since the officers’ negligence and disregard for duty has caused the losses. The life of the people, natural conditions, underground water level and water bodies have all been wrecked because of the rampant mining,” he added.

Shivaprakash also demanded that all departments take action by December this year. “Varthur Prakash and Amaresh continue to make false promises at every meeting or function that the unlicensed sand mining would be brought to a halt and that crores of rupees have been released for the development of the district. We request them to consider the welfare of the district at least from now on.”

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