Karnataka's controversial mine owner and tourism minister Galli Janardhan Reddy, who was facing serious charges of illegal mining in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh, has suffered a major blow. The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) appointed by the Supreme Court on environment and forest, in its preliminary report submitted to the apex court has confirmed that prima facie there was illegal mining beyond the limits of leased lands, in violation of the forest conservation act by Reddy's companies. The committee has recommended that if such a violation was proved, then the license given for mining to such companies should be cancelled.
The CEC was appointed by the Supreme Court on a public interest litigation filed by T Ganesh seeking court's intervention to stop the illegal mining of iron ore. The committee has recommended to the Supreme Court that mining along Andhra-Karnataka border by the Obulapuram Mining Company owned by Galli Janardhan Reddy and four other companies should be suspended till the border between the two states is clearly established by a high level committee.
Among several serious allegations leveled by the opposition parties, Galli Janardhan Reddy was also accused of changing the border between Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka as well as between different villages with in Andhra Pradesh. Though the Survey of India was earlier asked to conduct a survey in the area to identify the correct boundaries, its officials said they will take up the survey only if they were provided with the special security by Central Reserve Police Force.
The CEC has recommended to the court that a special committee comprising of the officials of central government, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh should be constituted to go in to the issue of borders as well as the boundaries of the leased land allotted to different companies like OMC and Anantapur Mining Company, both owned by Galli Janardhan Reddy, Bellary Iron Ore Private Ltd and Y Mahabaleshwarappa and Sons.
The CEC has said that the committee should include the officials of Survey of India, officials of central government's departments of forest and environment and minning and officials of the departments of revenue, forest, mining, land of both Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and it should re-establish the borders between the two states.
According to the officials, the mining companies have pushed Andhra border into Karnataka by nearly three meters along a stretch of several kilometres and were carrying on with the illegal mining on the basis of lease they got from the AP government showing the area as that of Andhra Pradesh.
The committee also concluded that there was violation of boundaries of the leased land by all the five companies involved in iron ore extraction in the area. That means that they were mining iron ore in much bigger area than they were given on lease by Andhra Pradesh government.
The CEC has recommended the suspension of mining work till the survey was over at a time when the Andhra Pradesh High Court has struck down an order of the Divisional Forest Officer Kallol Biswas restraining the Anantapur Mining Company from mining of iron ore.
Galli's wife G Lakshmi Aruna had challenged the orders of the forest official in the court and sought an interim order against the suspension of mining. While allowing the company to continue the mining of iron ore, Justice L Narasimha Reddy directed it to transport the mined iron ore only after obtaining permission from forest department. The matter will come up for further hearing after two weeks.
The Andhra Pradesh government has decided to hand over the investigations in to the allegations against Galli Janardhan Reddy and others to the Central Bureau of Investigations but no formal orders have been issued. AP CM Ken Rosaiah has said that dispute was essentially between two companies OMC and Bellary Iron Ores Private Ltd. Bellary Iron Ores ltd had alleged that Galli's company has encroached upon its land. BIOS has also filed a petition in the Andhra Pradesh High Court seeking stoppage of illegal mining by OMC. G Janardhan Reddy faces a similar case in the Karnataka High Court.