Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fake transport permits helped illegal mining

While raising contract is the primary concern surrounding illegal mining, there is another interesting aspect which contributes to this multi crore racket. The Lokayukta report and also the Advocate General of Karnataka had clearly mentioned that to bring about a halt to illegal mining in Karnataka there is an immediate need to check raising contracts and in addition to this keep a tab on fake transport contracts.

The officials of the Lokayukta have seized large numbers of fake permits which were being used to transport iron ore. As investigating officers would put it, these are permits with no expiry dates and have been used over and over again.

The lid on these fake permits which are used for transportation and also export was blown off when a team of investigating officers were probing the infamous Belekeri port incident. The Lokayukta team had seized 5 lakh tones of iron ore being transported illegally from the port and overnight the same disappeared. Following this mysterious disappearance of seized ore, investigations were conducted and some shocking facts came to light. The rules clearly state that once iron ore is dumped at a port, the port officer has to return the permit with a cancellation seal. However in several cases including this one, the investigators have found that none of the permits had been cancelled the same permit was being over and over again.

Another clear violation which has been noticed by investigating agencies is 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 that is 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.

Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde pointed out that the irony is that these people have managed to get past 12 check posts before dumping the ore at the port. We are getting into 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.

K C Kondaiah, Member of the Legislative Assembly from Bellary who has filed a petition before the Karnataka High Court regarding illegal mining told 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 check posts. More importantly these permits are accompanied with a chit which is an indication that the lorries must not be stopped. The charges that these people pay the lorry drivers is also Rs 200 more per tonne when they overload the lorry and in Bellary they call this exercise as “Risk Management.” He also alleges that in most occasions there is the use of Andhra Pradesh based permits with this ore from Karnataka is being transported into the Krishnapatanam, Vaizag, Belekere and Kakinanda ports. From here the loot 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 photocopied copies of permits which were being used by mining companies. This was found to be used majorly in the Bellary-Sandur belt of Karnataka.

Sources in the investigating agency told that it was not some small time seizure. We have found 8 gunny bags of such permits and this is what is contributing to the big scam in this business called as transport contracts.

Further to this, the Lokayukta is also probing to find out whether fake permits are being printed. There have been some complaints that this racket is being going on in Hospet near Bellary and are being used to transport ore illegally.

Rules flaunted: Ask any investigating officer looking into this issue and he would say that there is not a single rule that is being followed. These lorries which carry fake permits are always accompanied by goons of these mining lords. The Lokayukta report makes a mention regarding this aspect in which also goes on to state how the social fabric of Bellary is being spoilt due to this. Mining lords have picked up several unemployed youth and have provided them with fancy bikes. In addition to this they are given food, Rs 500 per day and also a mobile phone. Their job is to make regular trips in the town and also on the highways apart from accompanying these lorries. Their job is to inform the higher ups in case of any trouble.

In addition to this investigations also go on to show that rules are not being abided and not a single officer in 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.

However the investigations during the Belekere incident have shown that these permits are not being cancelled and hence the mine owners are able to use it over and over again.

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