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How K'taka govt IGNORED Lokayukta's first report

Last updated on: July 26, 2011 15:42 IST

How K'taka govt IGNORED Lokayukta's first report

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Vicky Nanjappa

While the Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde gives final touches to the illegal mining report, the people of Bellary say they are not bothered, and Chief Minister Yeddyurappa is on a mission to save his chair yet again. Vicky Nanjappa revisits Lokayukta's first report that came out in April 2010, and dealt with the pathetic living conditions in Bellary.

It was only a year ago that the Lokayukta had submitted the first report on illegal mining that dealt with much greater issues, when compared with the one about to be submitted on Wednesday.

The report makes several pointers to the pathetic living conditions in Bellary. This report deals with issues such as the modus operandi and names the bigwigs who have helped facilitate the illegal mining horror, which has made the district into the 'dust capital of the world'.

The issues that the first report dealt with at large were about the health hazards, the poverty situation in Bellary, and all other aspects which were negating the value of human life because of the rampant illegal mining.

Has the first report been implemented as yet? The answer is no.

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Image: Mining in progress in Bellary

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The government was not concerned: Hegde

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Justice Santosh Hegde, the man who prepared that report, says that the government has not bothered to implement anything from that report.

"Yes it dealt with human aspects, but the government was not concerned," he says.

However, the Karnataka government appears keen on implementing the second report, while giving the first one a complete miss. Most would agree that this report is being considered because it has a lot of political ramifications.

The situation in Bellary is no different. It still has the speeding trucks causing accidents, and cases of child labour are rampant.

Despite scores of people complaining about the pollution in Bellary, the government seems to have done nothing.

The first report had pointed out, that mining causes too much dust, which affects the air. The situation is even worse for those living close to the highways.

"The number of asthma cases due to pollution is on the rise, and health-care in Bellary is nothing short of a joke," says a resident.

The state department for environment has not even inspected the place. In fact, Bellary residents allege that the department is hand in glove with the mining lobby, and would not dare act on any of these issues.

The government has not ensured that mining companies check the dust quantity that is being kicked up while transporting iron ore.

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Image: Trucks laden with iron ore kick up so much dust that it is a major health concern in Bellary

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'The land is in desperate need of restoration'

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The other aspect that the government has failed to act upon is the land imbalance caused due to mining. Several acres of agriculture land is now uncultivable because of the dust from the mining settling on it.

This is despite a recommendation that these lands need to be restored with the help of government agencies.

Also, there is the issue of mining 'lords' taking suo motu decisions, without being bothered about people's convenience. As per the norm, a public meeting comprising of local representatives along with the people is supposed to be held before any new mining venture is chalked out.

Ironically, Bellary happens to be the fourth-richest district in Karnataka. However, it tops the chart when it comes to lack of access to education, water and health-care.

Several non-governmental organisations that have worked in Bellary say that the living conditions there are pathetic.

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Image: Mining in progress in Bellary

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'There are plenty of child labourers in Bellary'

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"There are no school teachers, and the food served in the schools is never checked. Moreover, the children in Bellary are malnourished because of conditions created by the mining activity," says an NGO worker.

"Children do not have access to a proper school buildings, and more often than not, they are have to study with the backdrop of speeding lorries, which kick up dust as they speed past these schools," he adds.

There are horror tales in Bellary and it is the responsibility of the child and welfare department to address these concerns. However, when one visits Bellary, it is quite apparent that not much has been done.

"Whatever little has been done toward this issue has been carried out by NGOs, who are under constant threat by the mining lobby," he adds.

The report of the Lokayukta makes specific mention about the plight of the children with a recommendation to the state to act on it.

The 1952 Mines Act (amended) clearly states that no person below the age of 18 shall work in mines. But according to the report, the mines in Bellary employ several children aged between 10-16.

"The government is supposed to first implement this law strictly and also conduct regular inspections. However, there has been no inspection in Bellary yet," says a resident.

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Image: Child labourers at a mining site.

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Just taking care of some problems is not enough

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Some of the residents feel that simply taking care of some problems is not enough. "The government needs to offer a rehabilitation package. They should at least ensure that the agricultural land around this city is restored so that there is some form of alternate employment," he adds.

India's Childhood in the Pits,  a 2010 report by Dhaatri Resource Centre for Women and Children, an NGO,  states that the 2007 National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy does not even recognise the manner in which children are affected due to displacement from any project, including mining.

The report also names 11 officials for allegedly aiding the illegal mining business and also concealing facts about the wrong doings in Bellary and surrounding areas.

 


Image: The government has not ensured that mining companies check the dust quantity that is being kicked up while transporting iron ore

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