“Commission of inquiry announced in Lok Sabha will not suffice”

The former Prime Minister and national president of the Janata Dal (Secular), H.D. Deve Gowda, has suggested the constitution of a multi-agency special task force to prevent illegal mining of iron ore in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, besides going into the ramifications of mining- related activities over the past decade. He has written a detailed letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; AICC president Sonia Gandhi, who is also chairman of the United Progressive Alliance; Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee; and Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, highlighting the need for the Union government to intervene immediately and put a halt to illegal mining in the State. “This is a national issue requiring immediate formation of a multi-agency special task force comprising competent officials drawn from the CBI, the Customs and Enforcement Directorate, the NSA, and other such specialised agencies.”

Mr. Gowda told The Hindu that the announcement in the Lok Sabha on August 17 about the constitution of a commission of inquiry would not suffice. On the other hand, “it will only serve to dilute the excellent work being carried out by the Karnataka Lokayukta.”

He said the multi-agency should also look into the role of the Karnataka government undertaking, Mysore Minerals Ltd., which granted iron ore and granite mining and trading contracts to various companies, including those owned by a number of political leaders, thus causing the State a huge loss of revenue, as had been brought out by the Accountant-General.

Mr. Gowda said the alarming issue was that the iron ore-rich district of Bellary and other areas along the Andhra Pradesh–Karnataka border, which constituted the Bellary reserve forest, had been plundered by certain persons in the BJP government who owned companies with mining leases in Andhra Pradesh and none in Karnataka, and “have been able to run with impunity their private empire. I am compelled to draw your kind attention to this vital aspect relating not only to the nation's mineral wealth but also faith and trust in the very institutions of democracy to ensure that the rule of law prevails as against the rule by a few men having money and political power.” This unprecedented loot of the country's mineral resources started in 2002-03 when the prices of, and the demand for, iron ore saw a huge spurt in the international market turning Bellary into a new Eldorado.

Mr. Gowda said that even after the State government recently banned the export and transport of iron ore, “things have remained as usual in the sovereign Republic of Bellary.”

The Karnataka Chief Minister himself had admitted to illegal mining and transport of about 40 lakh tonnes of iron ore.

Mr. Gowda said that even Karnataka Governor H.R. Bhardwaj had voiced his concern at illegal mining and forwarded a complaint to the Election Commission on the issue of conflict of interest involving the Bellary Ministers.

Hence, “a knee-jerk reaction of constituting a Commission of Inquiry will only border on eye-wash and will do nothing except raising serious questions in the minds of all well meaning persons on the bona fides of such a move.”

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