Interview- Mekedatu will benefit all

On Saturday, Karnataka witnessed yet another protest on the Mekedatu issue and normal life was crippled between dawn and dusk. Two states, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have argued and counter argued over this issue, but then the real solution will be available only if there is a political will and the Cauvery Waters Tribunal before which this issue is pending since 2007 decides on the matter.
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Does the Congress have answers for Goa?

There was a hue and cry after the Lokayukta report on illegal mining at Bellary and in fact it even went on to cost B S Yeddyurappa his chair as the Chief Minister of Karnataka. Today the entire focus is on Goa which according to the preliminary report of the Shah Commission gives the indication that illegal mining here is nothing short of theBellaryscenario.

Per se, it does not appear to be a simple case as it does involve a great deal of politicians in the ruling Congress. In addition to this there is also a direct link between Karnataka andGoathat can be found in this case and as investigations progress it becomes clear that the Digambar Kamath government will have a major headache to deal with. The Shah Commission has surveyed around 93 mines so far and has found illegalities in various stages.

Looking at bothBellaryandGoait becomes clear that the devastation is almost similar in both these areas. However according to sources there is every likelihood of more devastation being found inGoa. There are around 135 mines inGoaand mining takes place in 4 taluks. What makes it worse is that last year alone around 50 million tonnes of ore has been extracted out of such a small area which gives the clear indication that the impact and rate at which mining has taken place is very disturbing.

Goahas long been a target of mining and according to records this activity started way back in the 1940s. However all these years this activity has been unchecked. Moreover this activity has been restricted to the forest areas inGoaand this has also added to the devastation. Another shocking fact is that there are around 800 mining leases given out inGoa, but the government says that only around 300 are in operation. This would mean that the rest of mining leases that have been granted are all operating illegally.

As the probe on illegal mining progresses more skeletons are expected to tumble out since the more one digs into these mines in Goa, the more illegalities can be found. There are some mines which have been operating for the past two decades without any approval from the authorities concerned. In addition to this what has also been found is that despite the expiry of leases in the year 2007 most of the mine owners continue to operate without any proper sanction. The most painful aspect of them all is that mining continues in areas next to wildlife sanctuaries despite a Supreme Court order banning all activity in a one kilometre radius. The most common factor that one finds between Goa andBellaryis that of raising contracts.Goais also a party to this illegality where mines are being run by proxy owners.

The Shah Commission would also depend on the statistics that are available with the Public Accounts Committee which clearly states that in the past 12 years 34 million tonnes of iron ore has been exported illegally from the mines inGoa.

The depositions before the Shah Commission is also another interesting aspect. The names of several big wigs have been tumbling out and more are expected to come out in the days to come. The names of several existing ministers and their children are cropping up during the probe. Chief Minister Digambar Kamath who has also been the mines minister for 12 years has actually got the most to answer. Probes have pointed out that several norms have been violated which also include the Forest Act which was seized off by the Supreme Court of India.

The Goa government’s role in helping the growth of illegal mining was infact a public affair in the year 2009. 400 villagers had come out in the open at the Rivona village to protest mining activity in a forest area by a minister. However in the bargain the protest was quelled with 400 of them chargesheeted for disturbing peace in the area.

Going by the documents in our possession it is also clear that theGoagovernment does not have the answers to several questions that were raised by the Shah Commission.

Here is a questionnaire which gives a fair idea of the action that has or has not been taken by theGoagovernment in this issue.

Whether there is any violation and whether notice is issued to the lease holders/ stockiest/trader

Nil

No. of cases processed in the Court(Charge-Sheet filed)

Nil

No. of transportation permits issued.

There is no system for issuing transportation permits in this state

No. of cases in which mines suspended.

Nil

No. of cases of mines terminated in which license/lease terminated. Whether any mine is siezed or confiscated?

Nil

Nos. of Mines restored.

Nil

Whether any special drive is started? If any, result there (with IBM or State task force/ flying squad) with number of visits of the mines.

21 mining leases were inspected with IBM as a part of Inspection in Endemic Area carried out by Task Force – II of IBM (Phase 4) from 15/3/11 to 21/3/2011.

Prevention action taken based on other source for iron ore or manganese.

In case of one mine which was not valid, action to lift old stacks of boulders was stopped.

Whether the satellite imagining technique used by any State Government to find out illegal mining ifIronOreand manganese? If yes, give details and result thereof.

No

Checking or users of iron and manganese and details of export, if available.

The Iron ore produced in Goa is export oriented

Price monitoring (give details of price trends).

Price monitoring is not done by this Directorate

Whether any check at railway point/road check/ post.

Nil

Whether any check at port.

At both the ports exports have to furnished NOCs to the Captain of Ports/MPT issued by the Directorate of Mines & Geology stating that the ore being transported is from a valid leases and the applicable royalty is paid to the state Government before sailing of the ship.

Cases of Illegal Mining detected as per production given in mining plan (for iron ore and manganese).

Details shall be furnished subsequently

In case of excess production than the proposed production, whether action is taken for illegal mining?

Wherever required action shall be initiated

Amount of royalty recovered and whether checked on way at the time of payment, whether it was checked that production is from valid lease or by authorized license?

With effect from November, 2008 any valid lease holder who has to pay royalty to the state Government is required to fill up a special challan designed in quadruplicate having a separate colour by itself. The challan is required to be authenticated by the special Designated officer of this Directorate before depositing the amount in the two Designated treasuries only of State Bank ofIndiaone in North Goa and other inSouth Goa. No unauthorized person can pay royalty/others dues without authentication.

In case mines detected, where no lease was existing, whether criminal case is launched under IPC? If yes, give details and result thereof.

Nil

Furnish information about production envisaged and the actual achieved/ reported. The grade of the iron ore and manganese ore produced in the State ? Furnished details regarding grade available and the grade mined? (The iron ore produced in the state is basically of low grade with 55%-58% Fe, which at present has export market.

Total quantity permitted for all 90 working mines as per Environmental Clearance limit is 46.084 MT for iron ore 1.0MT for Bauxite and a quantity of 161.8 MT was extracted during the last five years.

Undertaking mining in the area without taking approval of the concerned State Government for transferring concession.

Nil

Raising of minerals without appropriate authority;

Nil

Raising of minerals without paying royalty along with quantity and grade;

Verification of lease holder date in process.

What is the modus operandi and methods of illegal mining activities in your State ?

– Illegal mining has been detected in 15 cases during last 5 years. Broadly the modus operandi noticed are as following :-.

1. In the pretext of digging ponds/excavation of silt etc. The parties obtain permission from requisite authorities for digging well/pond, etc. and it is difficult to identify the genuine cases until through enquiry is conducted.

2. Exceeding the rated capacity stipulated in the E.C. limit.

3. Development of property is undertaken to win ore found to occur at the surface. However such incidence has not come to the notice of the Directorate. 4. Violation of Condition Stipulated in Environment Clearance.

Whether any State Mineral Policy is strictly adopted by the State?

State Mineral Policy is under formulation.

Any statutory provisions made by the State Government

The StateGovernment has framed Rules namelyGoa(Prevention of Illegal Mining, Transportation and Storage of minerals) Rules, 2004 to curb illegal mining and trading activities.

Whether the provision are sufficient for controlling illegal mining, if not, what are your suggestions ?

Yes, This Directorate is making necessary amendment to the Rules of 2004, after taking into consideration amendment to the Rule 45 of MCDR, 1988

What step would you like to suggest at the level of State and Central Government Authorities for curbing illegal mining

Transit passes.

Spot visit of Central EC Committee/Penal having State Government Authority

Assess carrying capacity of the area both in terms of number of mines and infrastructure.

To assess mining closure plan in case of multiple licence holding prior to issue of EC.

Registration of Mining Trucks

Registration of Traders .

Do you suggest blanket ban on export of iron ore and manganese ore would help to prevent illegal mining activities in the State ?

No, the grade of iron ore exported is low grae which has export potential at present. There is no indigenous consumption of iron ore. Thickly forested area should not be permitted for extraction of minerals.

What would be consequences, if such ban is imposed?

The Mining activities will come at standstill as iron ore produced inGoais export oriented.

Whether illegal Mining and Trade of Minerals illegal mining taking place under the patronage of any political parties, extremist elements for powerful local leaders or any other extra-constitutional elements ? If so, indicate such elements.

Nothing has come to the notice of this Directorate.

What is the frequency of inspection of lease/ mines in the State and whether all leases / mines are covered under inspections ?

The inspection of mining lease is taken up on receipt of any complaint

Whether any powers is given to Police /Forest/ Revenue officer under

MMDR Act? and do you think there is a lack of co-ordination between various State Agencies like Police, Revenue, Forest Land Records etc; which gives loopholes for illegal mining activities and transportation of illegally mined minerals and ore ?

No powers given, however, these agencies have to act within the ambit of their jurisdiction, sometimes it is not forth coming often leads to illegal mining and transportation.

Whether you perceive that delay in grant of approval of various State

and Central Agencies is leading to illegal mining activities? If so, identify the Agencies responsible delay in grants of various approvals.

No Sir

What rule you perceive from the Central Government to assist in prevention and control of illegal mining activities and transportation of illegally mined minerals?

1. Mining Plan should not be approved unless proper site inspection done.

2. GPS monitoring of production/transportation .

What action is being taken by your Government on the MCDR inspection carried out by Indian Bureau of Mines and Reports and violation letter endorsed by Indian Bureau of Mines?

Action will be initiated incase IBM informs that the lessees has not Complied/Rectified the violation within the stipulated period.

In how many cases, C.B.I enquiries or enquiries by State Intelligence Agency were conducted and what is the outcome ? Give case wise details in chronological order.

Nil

Now Guv to face defamation suit

The war of words between the Chief Minister and the Governor of Karnataka continued with the former telling the media on Monday morning that his friends are planning on filing a defamation against the latter.

Speaking to reporters outside his residence in Bangalore, he said that the Governor had acted in haste and taken the decision to accord sanction to prosecute him. The Chief Minister, B S Yeddyurappa said that the Governor had made a lot of remarks against him and all of them were not in good taste. My friends are upset with these statements and will be moving the court and filing a defamation case against him.

The Chief Minsiter further said that he is making an appeal to the Governor to tender an apology to the people of Karnataka for making such a hasty decision against their Chief Minister. Due to his hasty actions the people of the state suffered. It is now the moral obligation of the Governor to compensate the people of Karnataka due to the bundh which was called due to his hasty decision, the CM also pointed out.

Meanwhile the Special Court which is hearing the two complaints filed against the Chief Minister in connection with a land scam will hear the matter at 2 Pm on Monday. The two advocates have added three more cases taking it up to 15.

At New Delhi, the BJP leaders met with President of India and submitted a memorandum coupled with documents to show that the Governor of Karnataka was acting as an agent of the opposition. They have sought a recall of the Governor with immediate effect.

What next after Aseemanand?

The Swami Aseemanand confession may be done, but the road ahead for the investigators is anything but easy. If Aseemanand’s confessions are anything to go by then it becomes clear that the blasts on the Samjautha Express, Mecca Masjid, Ajmer and Malegaon are all interlinked.

Investigators told rediff.com that the Malegaon blasts will be the key since it is concerned to be the mother of this terror jigsaw as the breakthroughs were first made in that case. While the likes of Sadhvi Paghya Singh Thakur, Colonel Shrikanth Purohith, Dayanand Pandey and now Swami Aseemanand are already in custody, the investigations will not be complete unless and until all the agencies probing these cases coordinate with each other and also they will need to very soon get into their custody a couple more accused who will help complete the terror jigsaw.

If one reads the confession made by Swami Aseemanand a couple of days back, then he takes the names of Indresh Kumar, Bharat Rateshwar, Sandeep Dange and Ramji Kalsanghra and terms them as major players in this case.

The Central Bureau of Investigation which is seized of most of these cases says that they will not only have to get these men into their custody, but will also have to travel back to the Malegaon case and interrogate the accused involved in that case since it is all interlinked. In addition to this the CBI also plans to meet with the officers of the NIA which is handling the Samjautha case and review with them every 20 days regarding these cases and also share information.

Ramji Kalsanghra: A key man to the investigation who has been absconding since 2008 ever since the Malegaon probe gained steam. Investigators say that he used to be a pracharak from the RSS and was directly responsible for the Malegaon blasts. Investigators say that while he was directly involved in the Malegaon blasts, he was also in the know of the rest of the blasts and had played a key role in conspiring these blasts. Aseemanand in his confession while speaking about Kalasaghra says that he had got a call from Dange and was told to pick him up. When he did so he saw Kalsanghra with him and they had with them a suit case with some heavy ob-jects. When he spoke with Kalsanghra he told him that he was coming back from Maharashtra and it was the next day that I realised that bombs had gone off at Malegaon. Investigators say that the arrest of Kalasanghra apart from giving them details about the cases on hand would also help them with information regarding the others in their modules.

Aseemanand also goes on to speak about a meeting that he had with Sunil Joshi in which Kalsanghra was present. It was in that meeting that Aseemanand is alleged to have said that we will reply to bombings with bombings.

Sandeep Dange: He was also part of the conspiracy and figures several times in the confession made by Swami Aseemanand. He was a pracharak in the RSS at Indore and he too went missing after the Malegaon probe opened up. Investigators point out that Dange formed part of a core group in this module and he was in the know of things. Considered to be very close to Joshi, Dange operated most of the time with Kalsanghra. Aseemanand mentions his name on various occasions and the investigators believe that he was with Kalasanghra when the Malegaon operation was carried out. In fact Dange was also part of the meeting with Aseemanand in which Joshi, Kalsanghra were present. The CBI feels that interrogating Dange will give them clues as to who the persons were who planted the bombs on the Samjautha express and also at Ajmer.

Indresh Kumar: This is probably the most controversial name to come out in this case. A central committee member of the RSS, his name has been taken several times in the past by the various persons interrogated in connection with the above mentioned attacks. There have been various versions to the role allegedly played by him in these cases. Sources say that the accused started spilling the beans on him since he had assured them that they would be safe but at a later stage they felt let down by him as he did not protect them. Colonel Purohith too had a falling out with him over the political scenario in Nepal in which India was interested. Purohith felt that Kumar was in favour of restoring democracy in Nepal while he felt that the rule of the king should remain as it needed to continue being a Hindu country.

Today as per the interrogation of Aseemand, it was Indresh who mentored these attacks and also financed them. The god man also goes on to add that he had handpicked pracharaks from the RSS to carry out attacks. Aseemanand also goes on to say that he met with Indresh at the Shabri Dam ashram at the Dangs. I was told that my job was not to bomb, but to take care of tribal welfare. He also told me that he had assigned Joshi for this job and he was ready to extend any help in this regard. He further goes on to say that Indresh financed these operations and also motivated several pracharaks for the same. The CBI or the NIA have not yet taken him into custody, but would be looking to interrogate him in the wake of the Aseemanand confession.

Bharath Rateshwar: His name cropped up on an earlier occasion too. It is said that this businessman from Valsad had allegedly lent his house in which the meeting of June 2006 was held. Aseemanand goes on to say that he along with Sadhvi, Joshi and Rateshwar decided to give a fitting reply. He also speaks of another meeting which he held with these people in which the Mecca Masjid and Malegaon blasts were discussed. Further the god man says that in 2007, he met Joshi along with Rateshwar and was told that there would be good news in a couple of days. It was after this that the Samjautha blasts took place.

Rateshwhar does not figure as an accused in any of these cases as yet. Ganesh Sovani, advocate for Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur says that Rateshwar’s name figures only as a witness in the Ajmer blasts case. He further goes on to add that no agency has tried to interrogate his client after the Aseemanand confession. This confession is not incriminating against either my client or any of the accused including Aseemanand. These are all tall claims and is based on hear say which will not survive the test of the legal process. There is no need for us to challenge this and we are presently fighting the case in the Supreme Court where we have challenged the imposition of MCOCA against my client.