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Relentless plunder


The news of a Mumbai-based mining company extracting at least 10 times more bauxite ore than it is allowed to from a village in Ratnagiri in Maharashtra and causing the State a revenue loss of crores of rupees by not paying the royalty has once again brought to the fore the issue of rampant illegal mining across India. What is shocking is that the State Government has been caught napping — or did it elect to look the other way? — while the company continued with the plunder long after its lease expired in November 2009. This is not a case in isolation. Scores of mine-owners have excavated iron ore, chromite, bauxite, manganese and other minerals much beyond the stipulated limit in Jharkhand, Odisha, Karnataka, Maharashtra and other mineral-rich States. In Odisha, out of 341 mines, only 126 have been found to have a valid lease. Since most mines have been operating years after their leases have expired by using a loophole in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, we can arrive at only one conclusion: There is a nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and mining companies. How else can one explain the misuse of the deemed extension clause that is meant to ensure that mining operations do not come to an abrupt halt due to administrative delays in deciding renewal applications?
Crack down on crime of illegal mining
The UPA’s hyperactive Minister for Environment and Forests, Mr Jairam Ramesh, has been selective in acting against the mining companies that are looting India’s wealth. He prefers to use different standards. As a result, companies indulging in illegal mining are also flouting the Forest Conservation Act and damaging the fragile ecosystem as a good number of mines co-exist with reserve forest areas. The bureaucrats, well aware of the large-scale pillage, turn a blind eye as long as their nests are feathered. This casts serious doubt on the Congress’s assertions that it would uphold green laws and not sacrifice environmental sustainability. Worse, there is growing evidence that the revenue from illegal mining in tribal areas is going towards funding insurgent activities of Maoist outfits. Mr Ramesh’s failure to crack down heavily on illegal operators is in essence allowing law-shirking plunderers to line the pockets of anti-nationals covertly. Now that the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee has submitted its detailed report, what is needed is an expeditious implementation of CEC’s recommendations without any bias and better coordination between officials of the Mining Ministry and the Environment & Forest Ministry to effectively enforce statutory provisions. Further, exemplary actions must be taken against babus whose deliberate delay in disposing of mining renewal applications results in a revenue loss of crores of rupees. This is the least that Mr Ramesh can do to stop the loot and save the country’s precious mineral resources.