State, AP prefer 1896 border map

The Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh governments on Tuesday held that the 1896 map of the Bellary Reserve Forest should be the basis for ascertaining the inter-state borders in the disputed Obulapuram mining sites.

In a meeting here during the day, Karnataka chief secretary S V Ranganath and senior AP government officials discussed the issue of the overstretching mining areas between the borders of the two states.

They “agreed” that the 1896 map of the Bellary Reserve Forest provided the basis for determining the border, as it gave “minute details” of the terrains falling on the common boundary.

The “agreement” between the two states came just ahead of the submission of an expected the Survey of India (SoI) report on the issue to the Supreme Court. An SoI team, headed by A K Padha, is reported to have already fixed boundaries based on the 1975 map of the SoI though the inter-state borders were originally fixed as per the SoI map of 1896.

According to sources, at Tuesday’s meeting of the officials from the two states, both sides rejected the 1975 SoI map. The map of SoI has not clearly demarcated the mining regions with “many mining areas overlapping” on the two sides, they said.

The SoI report may be crucial to establishing allegations that the Obulapuram Mining Company (OMC) owned by Karnataka Tourism Minister G Janardhana Reddy has indulged in illegal mining in Karnataka, outside the areas licensed to it by the Andhra Pradesh government in the adjoining parts of AP.

The SoI survey followed a mandate from the Supreme Court in May. The apex court gave the mandate in the wake of a report by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) it had constituted earlier. The CEC, in its report to the court, had virtually concluded that the 1896 map could not be the basis for boundary demarcation. It had criticised the AP government for demarcating the mining areas licensed to the OMC on the basis of the 1896 map.

The Bellary Reserve Forest was constituted on July 1, 1890, under Section 16 of the Madras Forest Act, 1882, and includes survey numbers in 10 villages of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

The inter-state boundary of the two states passes through the reserve forest. The AP government has given mining licence to the OMC in Andhra’s border villages of Obulapuram and H Siddapuram in Anantapur district.

Pending the SoI survey, the Supreme Court, in its order three months ago, had declined a plea for lifting its ban on mining at the OMC’s licensed mining sites. “The inter-state boundary has to be settled once for all. The survey has to be completed for clarity,” the court said while directing the SoI to undertake a survey of the inter-state borders along the disputed mining areas. At that time, the Central government’s top legal officers had suggested that the OMC might be mining illegally in Karnataka.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati said, “Inter-state boundary has been shifted towards west closure to Karnataka and the mining is near the Bellary Reserve Forest.” Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium said the OMC was mining without any sense of boundary. “It was difficult to find the boundary for GPRS survey as there was no exact point for drawing the scientific study,” he said.

Belgaum, G’barga belong to State

The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the Marathi-speaking districts of Gulbarga and Belgaum belonged to Karnataka, reports DHNS from New Delhi.

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