Bellary's mines run on fake truck permits
Vicky Nanjappa digs deep into the Lokayukta report to find that all rules in the book are being openly flouted by the mining lobby in Bellary.
An interesting aspect has come to light in the multi-crore illegal mining racket in Karnataka. The Lokayukta report and Karnataka Advocate General Ashok Haranahalli clearly mention that in order to bring illegal mining in Karnataka to a halt, fake transport contracts and raising contracts need to checked.
Lokayukta officials have seized a large numbers of fake permits which were being used to transport iron ore. Investigating officers say these permits have no expiry dates and have been used over and over again.
The lid on these fake permits, used for transportation and export, was blown off when a team of investigating officers were probing the infamous Belekeri port incident.
The Lokayukta team had seized five lakh tonnes of iron ore being transported illegally from the port, and the same disappeared overnight.
Permits never get cancelled
However, in several cases including this one, the investigators found that none of the permits had been cancelled -- the same permit was being over and over again.
Another clear violation that came to light was that no fresh permits were being used for the transport of ore.
Each load is to be accompanied with a permit of the forest department and also one from the mines and geology department as per Section 162 of the Forest Rules. However, what the investigators found was that these were all old permits and none of the permits provided by the port officers even tallied with the amount of iron ore that had been exported.
Stop-us-not chits accompany permit-less lorries
Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde pointed out that the irony is that these people have managed to get past 12 checkposts before dumping the ore at the port.
We are getting to the bottom of this and are also trying to find out as to why not a single case has been booked against these officers who let the ore pass in the first place, he said.
K C Kondaiah, member of the legislative assembly from Bellary who has filed a petition before the Karnataka high court regarding illegal mining, told rediff.com that these fake permits are used to carry out illegal mining.
"The lorries carry 30 tonnes of iron ore when the capacity is just 16 tonnes. They use the same old permits and get past the checkposts. More importantly, these permits are accompanied with a chit, which is an indication that the lorries must not be stopped," Kondaiah claims.
"These people pay the lorry drivers Rs 200 more per tonne when they overload the lorry, and in Bellary they call this exercise 'risk management'," he added.
Andhra permits used to smuggle Karnataka's ore?
Kondaiah also alleges that on most occasions, Andhra Pradesh-based permits are used to transport iron ore to the Krishnapatanam, Vaizag, Belekere and Kakinanda ports. From here it is taken to Chennai and then out of the country.
The Lokayukta probe also found the use of permits from Andhra Pradesh, which were being used to transport ore from Karnataka.
During a recent raid, the Lokayukta squad also found photocopies of permits which were being used by mining companies. These were being used majorly in the Bellary-Sandur belt of Karnataka. Sources in the investigating agency told rediff.com that this was not some small-time seizure.
"We have found eight gunny bags of such permits, and this is what is contributing to the big scam in this business, known as transport contracts," the sources said.
Further, the Lokayukta is also probing where these fake permits are being printed. There have been some complaints that this racket has being going on in Hospet near Bellary and the same are being used to transport ore illegally.
In Bellary, all rules are flouted openly
Mining lords have picked up several unemployed youth and have provided them with fancy bikes. In addition, they are given food, Rs 500 per day and a mobile phone. Their job is to make regular trips in the town and also on the highways apart from accompanying these lorries.
Investigations also show that not a single officer at the check posts have been able to control this menace. The Forest Rule 162 mandates that no forest produce shall be transported without a valid pass or permit, which is attested by a seal. After verification of the document, a cancelled seal is to be fixed on the document, which means a fresh permit has to be obtained for the next export.
In Bellary though all rules are flouted openly.