In spite of sustained protests by Adivasis and activists over the issue of indiscriminate granite mining in the Eastern Ghats of Andhra, officials are allegedly investigating the matter without involving the locals and are trivialising the serious damage caused by mining activities.
On Friday, the Narsipatnam RDO (Revenue Divisional Officer) and the Deputy Director (DD) of mining visited the mining quarries in the Kalyanapulova reservoir catchment area. They were accompanied by the local tehsildar and an assistant executive engineer from the irrigation department. “The Adivasis had complained that the mining companies had blocked the hill streams with their waste. The local MLA (Karanam Dharmasri) brought the issue to the notice of the district collector, who directed us to investigate the matter and submit a report,” Narsipatnam RDO said.
The RDO said that there were ‘minor’ obstructions to the streams, which the mining workers were told to remove. He claimed that the waste would be removed in a day or two.
Local farmers and other Adivasis said that the investigation cannot be considered valid since they were not even consulted.
“We came to know that the RDO and some officials came to the quarries for an inquiry. We did not know about their visit until they left. No notice was given to any of the villages. We are the ones suffering from the mining, they should be talking to us. Instead, they just went to the quarry, ate lunch, talked to the workers there and left. How is that a fair investigation?” said a man from Jogumpeta. Jogumpeta is one of the hamlets in the region, where active quarries constantly blasting the hills.
The Kalyanapulova Parirakshana Committee, formed by the locals, called the inquiry conducted by the RDO and DD ‘a mere ritual’, with officials involving the mining companies alone and not the locals. “No prior information is provided to the affected villages and the ayacut farmers. No notices are served to the catchment area farmers. Attempts are being made to show the mining company's staff as locals and gather evidence from them to show that mining is not a problem. There is no legality to this,” the committee alleged.
PS Ajay Kumar, a part of the committee and also a national committee member of the All India Agriculture and Rural Workers Association says that the irrigation department, which is the custodian of the Kalyanapulova dam and catchment area, must lead a fair investigation. “How can officials from revenue and mining departments assess the damage to the catchment area? They have taken along an assistant executive engineer as a token representative of the irrigation department, but that person does not have much say. There must be a new inquiry team led by someone of a higher rank, like a district level official from the irrigation department. Officials from Pollution Control Board and Forest Department should also be involved,” says Ajay.
Most importantly, Ajay says that the investigation has violated the principles of natural justice by not involving the farmers and tribal communities who belong to the catchment area. The committee has demanded that the RDO and DD’s investigation be rejected and a new inquiry to be conducted with the involvement of district irrigation department officials, as well as the local communities affected by the mining activities.