Illegal mining rampant despite laws

Both the Centre and states are busy passing the buck.

Updated: Sep 25, 2012, 12:27 PM IST

Rashi Aditi Ghosh/Zee Research Group/Delhi

Unlike his senior in the police service, this trainee IAS officer managed to keep death at bay. But Abhishek Singh’s survival brings to light the unending story of illegal sand mafia in the country.

The attack on the young official comes in wake of the issue capturing national imagination via mega-scams the latest being the CAG report on alleged mismanagement in coal block allocations.

Earlier in March this year, serving IPS officer Narendra Kumar was killed in a mining mafia attack, leading to wise spread protest all over the country. This happened even as a government appointed commission under Justice MB Shah called for drastic and urgent overhaul of the system in its recommendations submitted to the government during July last year.

What’s worse, the Centre and the states are busy passing the buck to each other on the issue. While it is true that state governments have been empowered to deal with cases of illegal mining and specific details are not centrally maintained in the ministry, the centre hasn’t taken adequate steps to against illegal mining to inspire confidence.

A Zee Research Group (ZRG) analysis of official data shows that despite laws like the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, that provides a penalty of imprisonment for a term up to two years or a fine extending to Rs.25,000 or with both, the reported cases of illegal mining has registered 29 percent increase since 2006.

But what’s intriguing is that very little action has been taken so far. As against 47,254 cases of illegal mining detected by the mining ministry in 2011, First Information Report (FIR) was lodged only in 14 percent of the detected cases.

The government set up an inquiry commission on July 14, 2010 under Justice MB Shah to probe illegal mining of iron ore and manganese. The Shah Commission in its interim report in July 2011 stated that the main cause for illegal mining of iron and manganese ore is the huge profit possible due to exports (mainly to China). The report also mentioned about illegal mining’s deleterious effects on the national economy and it has to be stopped immediately and effectively.

The Commission recommended a total ban on mining exports.

The ministry opined that the demand for iron ore exports is a reality and it cannot be held that exports are the reason for illegal mining. The ministry replied to the recommendation by saying that lack of governance at the state government level is the major factor behind rampant illegal mining.

In order to improve regulation for proper boundary demarcation and prevent mining beyond lease area or mining without lease, the Commission had secondly recommended to verify whether the boundary pillars are properly structured and are easily visible, and ensure that reports are properly recorded, by adding a new clause in sub-section (1) of section 24 of the MMDR Act, 1957. This recommendation was asked to be made mandatory for Central and State Government officers authorised under Section 24 of the MMDR Act, 1957.

The ministry of mines denied this recommendation also by saying that amendment to section 24(1) by addition of a new clause is not necessary. To check the growth of illegal mining, the committee recommended that the period of deemed extension with respect to mining leases under Rule 24A(6) of Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, should be made limited to a period of only one year or till the State Government passes any orders in the matter. But the ministry rejected the recommendation by saying that the solution is not practical and it may lead to impacting mineral production in the country.

The other two recommendations were accepted with a clause of practical applicability by mentioning issues like of limited staff strength of inspecting officers in Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) and the topography of the lease availability.