A Central Empowered Committee (on Environment and Forests) of the Supreme Court has found certain “ prima facie ” discrepancies in the information furnished by Andhra Pradesh on the actual extent of the three mines given in lease to iron ore companies owned by Karnataka Tourism Minister Gali Janardhana Reddy.
The boundaries of the mines shown in the Survey Report are prima facie different from the sketches on the approved mining leases, the committee said in a communication sent to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests on Friday. A copy of it is available with The Hindu .
In 2001, Mr. Reddy’s family was given leases of three mines, measuring 25.98, 39.50 and 68.5 hectares at Obulapuram and H. Siddapuram villages in Anantapur district. Following the Telugu Desam Party’s allegations that Mr. Reddy’s firms had encroached on land beyond the leased area, the then Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy appointed a Survey Committee, which gave a clean chit to the companies.
The Empowered Committee significantly concluded that “if the village boundary as drawn by the State-level Committee is taken to be correct, at least one mining lease overlaps into two other mining leases. In other words, the combined sketch map of mining leases does not tally with the individual mining lease sketches,” the letter said and sought specific observations from the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests.
The official was also asked to submit copies of the show-cause notices issued by the Anantapur Divisional Forest Officer. (DFO Kallol Biswas on October 28 served notices on the Obulapuram Mining Company for suspending its mining licences and subsequently received threats in person). Further, the Empowered Committee wanted copies of the sketch map of the five mines prepared by the Forest Department on the basis of the village boundary as demarcated by the Survey Committee, besides the sketch map of the sanctioned mining leases.
The five mining leases are a reference to the two given to the OMC, one to the Anantapur Mining Corporation, all owned by Mr. Reddy’s family, and the remaining two in the names of Bellary Iron Ore Co. Pvt. Ltd (BIOP) and Y. Mahabaleswarappa & Sons respectively.
The TDP has alleged that the Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka governments had surrendered to the ‘mining mafia’, in a reference to Mr. Janardhana Reddy, while loyalists of Congress MP Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy accused that party of dancing to the tunes of S.K. Modi, owner of BIOP. (The Central Empowered Committee was constituted under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act on a direction from the Supreme Court in May 2002 in connection with two writ petitions to save India’s forests and wildlife.)