Panel on illegal mining seeks quick replies from Karnataka

A Supreme Court-appointed central empowered committee (CEC) on Monday asked the Karnataka government to expedite its response to the questions that had been raised on illegal mining in Bellary district.

Last Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 21:54 PM IST

Bangalore: A Supreme Court-appointed central empowered committee (CEC) on Monday asked the Karnataka government to expedite its response to the questions that had been raised on illegal mining in Bellary district.

"The CEC has asked the state government to respond to its 14-point questionnaire at the earliest, as it had to submit a report to the apex court by April 20," a representative of petitioner NGO Samudaya Parivartana Samaj told reporters here.

The apex court set up the five-member panel Feb 25 under the chairmanship of PV Jayakrishnan to assess the extent of illegal mining in the reserve forest area of Bellary district, about 250 km from here.

"As the state government was slow in providing the details they sought after a hearing in New Delhi March 10, the panel members came down to assess the situation. After a two-day visit to the Bellary-Hospet-Sandur region, the panel impressed upon the government the urgency to expedite its response to the questionnaire," said NGO representative SR Hiremath.

On their return from Bellary Monday, the CEC members shared the information gathered on the situation arising out of gross violations of the various mining and forest laws with state officials

The meeting was attended by Chief Secretary SV Ranganath, forest department Principal Secretary Kaushik Mukherjee, Mining Secretary BS Ramaprasad and other officials concerned.

The committee sought details on the follow-up action taken on the Lokayukta`s (ombudsman) interim report that revealed that 1,081 hectares of forest area in the region was encroached by mining leaseholders.

The panel members and Ranganath declined to comment on what transpired at the meeting and the details sought from the state government, saying the case was sub-judice and the issues raised by the petitioner were before the apex court.

At a public hearing in Hospet Sunday evening, the CEC members learnt about illegal land transactions related to mining activity.

During an inspection, the panel came across several violations of the mining and forest conservation laws by leaseholders.

According to CEC member secretary MK Jiwarjka, a joint survey of the leased areas by the state forest department was found to be faulty.

"The panel has directed the department to study the satellite imageries prepared by the ombudsman and determine the exact lease boundaries," said Hiremath, who accompanied the CEC team.

IANS