Reports of teams that visited Obulapuram mines awaited; Leases between OMC and another firm overlapping

The Andhra Pradesh government has decided to institute an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into allegations of irregularities in iron ore mining in Anantapur district in the wake of the raging controversy over the mining leases given to the Obulapuram Mining Company (OMC) owned by Karnataka Tourism Minister Gali Janardhana Reddy.

This decision was announced here on Tuesday after Chief Minister K. Rosaiah held consultations with some Ministers and senior officials, pending submission of reports by three separate teams of officials that visited the Obulapuram mines to conduct an inquiry.

Mines and Geology Minister B. Srinivas Reddy told The Hindu that the Chief Minister would immediately address letters to the Union government requesting it to ask the CBI to begin investigations into allegations against the holders of mining leases. He did not specify the terms of reference.

The Telugu Desam and other Opposition parties have accused the OMC of encroaching into mines allotted to other leaseholders at Obulapuram in Anantapur and extending into Karnataka, and violation of forest, mining and environmental laws, besides committing economic offences.

The Mines Minister, however, said the controversy centred around a dispute over “overlapping of leases” between the OMC and another mining company. He maintained that the State government, as such, did not commit any irregularity while allotting leases to the OMC. “The TDP is raising a hue and cry with a view to drawing political mileage in the ongoing elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation,” he said.

Congress MP from Kadapa Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, who has been accused by the Opposition of having links with the Karnataka Minister, welcomed the government’s decision, but took exception to the TDP dragging in his name when it was essentially a dispute between two mine owners.

The TDP also welcomed the move, but wanted a Supreme Court judge to supervise the CBI probe.

Reddy welcomes move

Krishnaprasad reports from Bangalore:

Mr. Janardhana Reddy has welcomed the Andhra Pradesh government’s decision, but made it clear that he would not resign as Minister.

Mr. Reddy claimed that inquiries in the recent past, such as the ones by a House Committee of the Andhra Pradesh legislature and a committee of top bureaucrats, and a survey to determine whether his company had encroached into Karnataka, had cleared his firm of all charges.

He said Mr. Rosaiah must have taken the decision to refer the matter to the CBI “to put a full stop once and for all” to all the allegations. “I have been demanding a CBI inquiry on illegal mining since 2006 when the former Chief Minister of Karnataka, H.D. Kumaraswamy, accused me of involvement in illegal mining after I accused him of taking a bribe of Rs. 150 crore,” said Mr. Reddy.