Directing Chief Secretary S V Ranganath to “treat the matter as extremely sensitive and time-bound”, Union Mines Secretary Santha Sheela Nair in a letter said that the officials of the Government of India passing through any territory in the forest area anywhere in the country “may kindly not be treated as trespass”.
She added in her January 5 letter: “I am extremely sorry to note that such a situation has come to pass, and officials from the Union Ministry of Mines were prevented from discharging their duties.”
She enclosed a copy of a letter from the controller general of the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM), saying that the assistant conservator of forests and forest range officer in the Gunda reserve forest area, Hospet range, prevented officials of the IBM from proceeding through the forest area for inspection. “The officers were threatened that if they proceeded to take up the inspection, it would be treated as trespass, and that they would be prosecuted”.
Seeking the chief secretary’s “personal intervention” in the matter, Nair said the “atmosphere in which illegal mining cases are being investigated is vitiated with allegations and counter-allegations of connivance of officials at all levels.”
She added: “I, therefore, urge that the officials of the IBM and the Ministry of Mines be allowed free access to all mines within the forest area if the approach is only through such forest area”. She reminded him that she should be informed of the instructions given in this regard “as the Supreme Court’s orders have to be obeyed urgently.” Nair has written a similar letter to Union Forests and Environment Secretary Vijai Sharma.