When one says mining, the mind goes to Bellary. Ahead of this much hyped up report on illegal mining the scene is Bellary is not one bit different. The people of Bellary say that their problems are not going to be solved with one report, what they need is a political change.
Kumar a resident of the area says that there is not much activity in Bellary ahead of this report. For some mining has become a way of life. Prior to 1999 before the mining boom a lot was dependant on agriculture. Most of these people worked hard for a living, but after the mining boom many found a way to make easy money. Every third person has encroached upon some forest land and is mining in his own way in Bellary. This has ensured that they make a quick buck and it would be hard for them to go back to agriculture and work hard, he points out.
The real problem that Bellary faces is child labour and poverty. Bellary continues to be a case of Rich Land and Poor people. A report by theKarnataka Human Development Report of 2005 ranked Bellary the lowest when it came to literacy, health and also drinking water. Although Bellary ranks 9th in terms of higher income it does not mean that this money is reaching the poor since the wealth is never distributed according to this report.The downtrodden in this town are in a dilemma today. On one hand they want the mess to be cleared up and on the other even if it is they wonder what they will do. The last thing they want happening is them losing their employment.
Kumar says that they would expect the government to rehabilitate them and give them employment. There is a national awareness regarding mining and the manner in which the Supreme Court is monitoring this issue, it appears that there will be action sooner or later. The committee set up the Supreme Court has been surveying the area to find out the extent of encroachment into forest lands to mine illegally. The situation does not look for these men who mine illegally. Out of the 45 odd mines that have been surveyed, it has been found only 6 are undertaking their business as per the norms. The people feel that over the next few months more mines will shut down and to a large extent it does worry them since it is a matter of their employment.
Kumar says that while this sort of insecurity is there in the heads of the people, there is also an awareness that is being created. The people are being told that such a change will only be a temporary problem, but in the long run it is good for the district and their employment options will be wider and more important healthier. He says that they have started to realize that the change needed is political and no report can ensure that. They do not speak in particular about any politician, but say that someone who is not from the mining community should be elected in Bellary. Further the people are also being told that if mining stops then it would improve their health. Today the people face various ailments such as cancer, infections etc and all this is due to mining and dust that it kicks up. Justice Santhosh Hegde too had pointed out that working in Bellary for 4 days can give one infection on the skin and that is how bad the dust kicked up by these speeding mining trucks are. In addition to this there are accidents due to rash driving by these trucks and nearly 500 people have died in the past five years due to this.
The leaders are however singing a different song. They say way too much is being made out of this mining issue and the real picture is not as big as it looks. Sriramulu, mininster in the Karnataka government who is a close aide of the Reddy brothers has nothing against the report on illegal mining. He says that it should be made public and also acted upon. He however chose to make a bigger issue out of the phone tapping issue which has become a central point of debate ever since Justice Hegde spoke about it