Reddy may have to face imprisonment

Illegal mining: Rules have been thrown to winds: DFO

 Kallol Biswas, Divisional Forest Officer, Anantpur has been holding the post for the last three years.
Strangely he served a letter regarding the illegal activities of Obalapuram Mining Company (OMC) and Ananatpur Mining Company (AMC) owned by Tourism Minister Janardhana Reddy in May this year. But from October 26 to November 1, the officer has served five notices.

When Deccan Herald contacted him, the officer said he happened to observe 'illegal' activities in the leased mining areas of the two companies touching its ‘peak’ in the last one-and-half months. Hence, he had to inspect the mining areas to take stock of the situation.

Asked whether there is political pressure on him to come down heavily on the companies, especially after the demise Y S Rajashekar Reddy, who was close to the Reddys of Bellary, the officer replied in the negative. A letter seeking clarification on laying of illegal roads was sent by him to Reddy in May this year, the officer pointed out.

The DFO said that OMC and AMC have been into a lot of irregularities which include illegal mining, illegal road construction, destroying boundary pillars between the two states as well as mining lease area boundaries. “All sorts of illegal activities and violation of rules are happening in the reserve forest spread across the two states. We need to act,” he added.

To a question whether he had to crack down on the company fearing a notice from the Centre or Supreme Court, Biswas said he has nothing to prove to anyone. “The Central empowered committee was constituted by the Supreme Court 15 years ago and it is looking into various aspects of the Forest Conservation Act. The members will do their assessment on their own. Even the Survey of India conducts survey. Illegal mining or any sorts of activities will be exposed one day or the other. I will be sending my report to my HoD. My boss is well aware of the work I am doing,” he added.

To a query as to why other companies mining in the same area have no objection to Reddy, Biswas said, “Others are not as powerful as Reddy. OMC's neighbouring mining area lease is held by Bellary Iron Ores Pvt Ltd headed by Sunil Kumar Modi. He has been in this business for the last 40 years. When OMC trespassed into BIOP area extensively, Modi lodged a complaint with me. So I began the investigation,” he added.

Armed goondas

He also said that he has served notice on BIOP and Y Mahabaleshwarappa & Sons mining company which have violated certain rules. “When I was driven out by armed goondas hired by OMC during my visit to the mining areas, imagine the plight of minor mining companies,” he said.
Asked whether he would be taking action against Reddy for various offenses he has reportedly committed, the officer said, “For constructing road illegally in 6.5 acres of leased area, Reddy will have to pay Rs 1000 crore as penalty. Because he has excavated Rs 200 crore worth ore illegally, penalty is five times worth the ore extracted. Destroying boundary pillars is a non-bailable offence for which he has to face imprisonment for six months. But a lot of procedure is required to be fulfiled before taking action. He is after all a minister in Karnataka. We need to take the permission of the authority concerned in Karnataka,” he added.

Five notices served, still no reply

Divisional Forest Officer of Anantapur Kallol Biswas has so far served five notices on two companies - Obalapura Mining Company (OMC) and Ananthpura Mining Company (AMC) owned by the Reddy family. Here are contents of the notices served so far.
The owners of the company, mainly Minister Janardhana Reddy, are yet to reply to the notice.

1 Oct 26: Illegal road
The company laid road illegally in the reserve forest area to transport iron ore from the mining lease area of 68.5 ha. The road is laid from Gavisiddeswara Temple towards the mining lease area. The notice says the road is laid in violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act and conditions imposed by GoI. The company was given seven day’s time to show cause why the mining operations in the leased area should not be stopped.

2 Oct 28: Uprooting mining boundary pillars

The DFO served a notice on the OMC stating that the company had uprooted village boundary pillars designated as survey station no: 4 and lease boundary pillar: 6 located between Siddapuram and Obalapuram villages. The company has a mining lease area of 25.98 ha in the area.
The violation was noticed during a survey conducted to fix up the boundary between the two villages. The survey was conducted by State High Level Committee appointed by Andhra Pradesh government. The company has also destroyed all flagged iron rods pegged at regular intervals along the village boundary.
With this the company had conducted mining in the area belonged to M/S Bellary Iron Ore (P) Limited. It states that the company has done illegal mining. The company was given three day’s time to reply.
 
3 Oct 28: Laying road by destroying boundary pillars

The notice says that OMC has laid a road between survey stations 1&2 by destroying inter-state (Karnataka-AP) boundary pillars.
The company laid the road with an intention to transport iron ore from the company’s mining lease areas in AP to Karnataka.
The action is in violation of conditions imposed by Ministry of Environment and Forestry and other statutory agencies. The company was given three day’s time to reply.

4 Oct 30: Mining without permit

The notice is served to Ananthapura Mining Corporation, also owned by the Reddys, in connection with conducting mining operations in mining lease area of 6.5 ha in Bellary reserve forest area without getting consent from Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board. The company has not even taken permission from the Forest Department to carry out the mining operations. The company transported 12 lakh tonnes of iron ore lumps and fines between December 2008 and October 2009, without the clearances from the department.

5 Nov 1: Illegal mining in Karnataka

The DFO has served the notice stating that the OMC has been extracting ore illegally in Karnataka and transporting the same through unauthorised roads, laid by the company, to Andhra Pradesh.



The forest sub-division of Penugonda of Andhra Pradesh conducted a survey on October 22 to find out illegal activities by mining companies in Bellary reserve forest bordering Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. DFO Kallol Biswas says that during the survey it was noticed that OMC encroached the area leased to Bellary Mining Ores Company in about 0.225 ha which has very high grade iron deposits. Nearly 2.5 lakh tons of ore were extracted by digging 30 m deep over a period of 12 to 14 days from October second week. The ore has already been exported.

He said that the survey has been conducted very methodically and no one can tamper with the map. It has been prepared to establish the fact that illegal mining is rampant.

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