Dredging out mineral piracy

| Updated on March 09, 2018 Published on September 07, 2011

The arrest is but the first step towards eradicating the piracy of mineral resources by a business-political nexus.

The Central Bureau of Investigation team's surprise swoop and arrest of former Karnataka Tourism Minister, Mr Janardhana Reddy, from his palatial home in Bellary on charges of illegal mining in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh will appear the work of a pro-active government intent on cleaning up the mess in the country's mining sector. Illegal mining has been thriving in those States, with Mr Janardhana Reddy's firm also exporting iron ore to China with impunity. Even more shocking was the fact that he, as a State minister, and his three brothers continued with the illegal mining operations well after the Lokayukta, Mr Santosh Hegde, had submitted a voluminous report on the activity.

The CBI arrest may also raise suspicions in the BJP that the arrest is a political move as Mr Reddy was part of the former BJP-led State government of Mr Yeddyurappa. No one can deny that illegal mining had to be stopped for what it represented: an unlawful appropriation of public resources for private gain using political power for the purpose. This is as pernicious a form of corruption as any that Anna Hazare-led activists including Mr Santosh Hegde, author of the aforementioned report, have campaigned against, considering the involvement of politicians across parties and businessmen — the latter being members of ‘ civil society'. Illegal mining is rampant all over India, from dredging the Ganges bed in Uttarakhand to Rajasthan's marble mines; it has also resurfaced in the Bihar-West Bengal mining belt, all the way down to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Such blatant hijacking of a national resource requires more than the arrest of a local kingpin businessman-politician. It requires both law enforcement backed by all-party and popular (civil society) consensus to root out the evil and, at the same time, more enlightened policies that will disincentivise illegal mining.

The new Mining Policy is languishing even though the Cabinet has cleared it; Parliament has yet to approve it and then the mineral-rich States will have to do their bit to provide the grounds for precisely such discouragement. By reducing State control over licences, increasing private involvement in the working of mines through a transparent and open bidding process in which foreign investors can participate, the policy aims to bring mining literally to the surface. The arrest of Mr Janardhana Reddy is only the beginning of a systematic and consensually driven action plan to eradicate the biggest piracy of our mineral resources by a business-political nexus that has flourished unfettered for decades.

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Published on September 07, 2011
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