Illegal mining bigger scam than 2G
Mining in India is a scam bigger than 2G or Commonwealth Games but has failed to catch people’s attention because of difficulty in linking it with big political names, its eventual beneficiaries.
Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Narendra Kumar Singh is not the only one to fall victim to this deep nexus between illegal miners and the political class.
Amit Jethwa was shot dead in Gujarat in July 2010 for exposing illegal mining in Gir Forests, the only home of Asiatic Lions. Swami Nigamanand was alleged poisoned for raking up the issue of illegal mining in India’s national river Ganga in Haridwar.
Many have been receiving threats for exposing the nexus between the illegal exploitation of natural resources across country.
JB Dabral has been forced to leave his home in Tehri Garwhal after receiving threats from forest mafia for trying to halt their activities. He did not get support from the pro-mafia inclined local administration. “They are after my life because I have filed Public Interest Litigations in the Supreme Court to halt illegal felling of trees,” Dabral says. Many other civil society activists protesting against illegal mining in Uttarakhand have been receiving threats.
Most of these cases point out one malaise — inaction of the state governments’ to the complaints of illegal mining. To the contrary, the officials had leaked the information about the complaints to the illegal miners thereby compromising their security. It is a prime reason for many activists being killed or assaulted.
Singh was not indifferent to complaints of illegal mining. He decided to take on the political-miner nexus but underestimated the daringness of his opponents. Although the investigations into his deaths are still on, those who know Morena well say nobody dares to challenge the mining lobby in the district.
All these incidents lead to one question — is mining such a profitable business that people can be killed for it? Indeed, it is. The amount of minerals extracted is ten-times what is officially allowed. The cost of minerals or other sand has witnessed a three-fold increase in prices in the last five to seven years resulting in making the illegal business highly lucrative.
It is difficult to estimate the loss to public exchequer because of illegal mining across states. To me, it will not be less than Rs 1,76,000 crore estimated loss to government because of the 2G spectrum scam. And if, one estimates the damage to environment it causes, the loss would be of several lakh crore, enough to provide enough subsidized food grains to over 30 crore poor Indians around the year.
Running this illegal business is not difficult. One has to share part of the booty with those in power and eliminate whoever protests. It is a win-win situation for all those in power but the rampant mining has long lasting adverse impact on environment and socio-economic condition of locals. It is well documented fact Naxalism in tribal areas got people’s support because locals getting nothing in return for allowing mining in their native land.
The government had admitted in Parliament that mining activity has increased manifold in the states of Orissa, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa because of higher demand of iron ore. But, fell short of claiming that a large amount of this mining may be illegal.
Case of Bellary mines in Karnataka and illegal mining in Goa had hit the national headlines but we have failed to see a corrective national policy to curb mining. The Central government expresses its helplessness saying that mining is a state subject whereas the states throws the ball back to the Centre’s court saying their regulations govern mining in India.
This double speak helps the illegal miners, who without caring for environment, continue with brazen work and crush those who try to oppose them.