Mine owners on both sides of the border await demarcation of the boundary, which is needed to determine areas in which legal and illegal mining took place.

Illegal mining Delay in fixing Karnataka-AP inter-state boundary halts CBI probe
news Mining Tuesday, June 02, 2020 - 19:32

Mine owners are questioning the union government over the delay in the implementation of the Inter-State Boundary report submitted by the Survey of India to fix the borders between Karnataka (Ballari) and Andhra Pradesh (Anantapur). This, even after the Supreme Court had passed an interim order on September 17, 2018 directing the central government to finalise and fix the Inter-State Boundary (ISB) between Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in Ballari Reserve Forest.

The wait in the report implementation has halted the investigations into illegal mining by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and other investigating agencies.

The SC had also ordered that the matter be put up for further hearing after six months but nothing substantial has happened to finalise the boundary, rue the miners.

Nineteen months have elapsed since the SC order, but mine owners say neither the union government nor the Ministry of Home Affairs has taken steps to implement the ISB report.

Tapal Ganesh, a mine owner who has been fighting against illegal mining, tells TNM, “Without demarcation of boundary between Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, no investigation can proceed in the illegal mining case. The CBI Court, Hyderabad has made it clear that it wants the boundary demarcation to be fixed first.”

Yuvaraj, another mine owner in Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapur, adjoining Ballari, echoes Ganesh’s words. He adds, “A clear boundary has to be demarcated in order to determine areas in which legal and illegal mining took place.”

The SC had asked the Surveyor General of India to demarcate the boundary in Ballari Reserve Forest after the forest area common border for both the states was altered and destructed to facilitate illegal mining by encroaching upon the mining areas in Vitalpura, Tumti, Belagal, Honnali and Halkundi in Ballari district. This was done at the behest of the then Ballari District in-charge Minister Gali Janardhan Reddy, alleges Ganesh. He adds that the Surveyor General of India identified, after a comprehensive exercise, the requisite boundary points, rock markings and other requisites for the fixation of the ISB and submitted its report in August 2018.

When Ganesh asked about the status of the report implementation, he got a reply from the Survey of India Deputy Director Pradeep Singh on May 28 that directions had been given to the union government and that the matter was with the Ministry of Home Affairs for further necessary action.

Later, Ganesh wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking for early fixation of the ISB only to receive a reply from the PMO that the complaint had been forwarded to the Deputy Commissioner, Ballari. But as Ganesh points out, “It is not the Ballari DC but the central government or the Home Ministry that has to act on the Survey of India report.”

Meanwhile, the delay in fixing the borders is also taking a financial toll on the mine owners who have a lease in the disputed area that expired on March 31. The mining leases of 13 companies in the disputed areas and elsewhere were suspended in 2009 following the illegal mining case. Of the 13 companies, seven are in Karnataka while the rest are in Andhra Pradesh.

Having fought a legal battle over mining, Yuvaraj says, “We can wage a legal battle only if we are assured of returns. We want relief from the investigations.”

When contacted, official sources said that teams from the Survey of India visited the spot to demarcate the boundaries in Ballari Reserve forest areas but no deliberations have occurred between the Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh governments in the last one year.

Ganesh adds that if the boundary is fixed, then investigations will gain momentum and erring persons involved in illegal mining will face action as per law. Besides, mining activities in the state can resume which will help generate employment and bring in revenue.

Girisha is a freelancer who reports on wildlife and the environment.

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