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Silly Agendas

 

Editorial. Papri Sri Raman. March XXVII. XIV


Vote for Grey, Not Green!

 



Papri Sri Raman-fnbworld  By Papri Sri Raman


 



Maharashtra-map-fnbworldObulapuram Mining
Company-fnbworld

 

India does not have a Green Party, unlike Australia. It also has no party batting for the environment, though all the parties contesting the 2014 general elections claim to be dead against all corruption. The general elections this April and May are supposed to be the biggest elections to be fought ever, say the media. Also the toughest. And it is no surprise that it is being billed as a 'Gamechanger' election. However, go to the website of any of the contesting parties and you will not find on their agenda, what their stand on the environment is. From the sloth bear to the ghariyal, everyone is threatened, except for India's human beings.


This is no surprise. For most, environment is something to be exploited. Either we maintain a status quo and halt all development, or overuse and reap the transient benifits as much as you can, while you can. Environment and ecological resources are, however, India's biggest source of corruption. No party ever says, okay, if we win, this is going to be your environment minister or your water minister or your mines minister or forest minister.


Take the southern states, for example. Karnataka, Goa and Andhra Pradesh are havens for all kinds of illegal mining.  Income tax sleuths unearthed tax evasion of around Rs 86 crore by the Obulapuram Mining Company (OMC), run by Karnataka's Reddy brothers, Karunakara and Janardhana, and also their trusted confidante and state health minister B Sriramulu. They were supplying illegally mined iron ore to China and their operations in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are said to have earned them profits of more than Rs 10,000 crore. Today, Sriramulu is contesting elections as a much-courted politician. B S Yeddyurappa is another politician whose name has cropped up  in mining and land scams and encroachment into a reserve forest. He has reportedly admitted to an illegal iron-ore export racket at Belekeri Port involving 3,500,000 tonnes of iron ore. 


Bellary, from where Sushma Swaraj once contested against Sonia Gandhi, is their home turf. Then there is Ananth Kumar from South Bagalore, who Arvind Kejriwal has called, 'the most corrupt politician' and who will face Nandan Nilekeni. The Reddy brothers are powerfull and active in Andhra Pradesh too despite CBI investigations against them. Bayyaram mines were the playing fields of the Congress leader Y S Rajashekhar Reddy and family. One can rattle off a long list beginning with Obulapuram, Visakhapatnam bauxite, Chimakurthi galaxy granite, Koduru barytes and several other suchscams.


In Odisha, bauxite mining by Vedanta Resources in tribal areas have led to conflicts in land rights. The Supreme Court in 2013 ruled that the Vedanta mining project in the Niyamgiri Hills  will have to get the gram sabha clearance on whether it affects the cultural and religious rights of the tribals and forest dwellers living in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts.The CBI has evidence of considerable illegal mining of manganese and iron ore in Keonjhar district. The state government has suspended 128 mining leases for various minerals, including iron ore, manganese, chromites, limestone, while 482 licenses granted for trading and storage of minerals have been cancelled to stop illegal mining. Ninety-four of the 192 iron ore mining leases in Odisha do not have the mandatory environmental clearances. And of the 96 that have them, 75 have mined far beyond their permitted levels over the past several years, says the Justice MB Shah Commission report.


The Shah Commission was set up in 2010 to investigate nation-wide, such mining scams. The Shah Commission report on mining in Goa has accused both the state and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) of allowing illegal mining and  putting the region's environment and ecology at risk. About 55 per cent of the iron ore exported from India comes from Goa. The common illegalities the report points to are mining without licence, mining outside lease area and transporting minerals illegally. The Bombay High Court bench in Panaji in 2013 directed the Goa government to file an FIR against over 150 people - including politicians, mine owners and bureaucrats - who have been indicted in the Shah Commission report.  It is said to be a Rs 35,000 crore scam, enveloping illegal mining of iron ore and manganese ore, in contravention of the relevant statutory provisions.


Ghariyal-survival
instinct-fnbworld On the Kanyakumari coast, all along Tuticorin and in Kerala's southern coast, illegal sand mining takes out not only precious thorium but also monazite which is a 'rare earth', a rare element and this is exported to twenty countries, again illegally. All along India's extensive east coast, illegal quarrying of sand, especially in Tamilnadu, has been a major issue for years. Sand used for building is virtually freely excavated along this coast. This, again, is one reason why the CRZ, or Coastal Regulation Zone (three levels of land demarcated from the waterline, that is the sea) is such a hotly contested matter still, despite the 19 amendments and revisions on built-up area it underwent before 2000. The laws changed after that, but today, the subject has fallen off the map.


Illegal sand mining is posing great threat to the breeding of wild ghariyals of the National Chambal Sanctuary running across the three states of  Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. 'Mining of sand banks is destructive for ghariyal population as sand banks are essential for nesting and basking, wildlife activist Upamanyu Raju has said in his complaint filed with the National Green Tribunal, seeking its intervention in the matter. Villagers residing along the river are flattening ravines present in the sanctuary for farming, his complaint points out.


From the M S Swaminathan committee to the K Kasturirangan committee, while the number of committees and their recommendations on the ecological state of the nation continue to grow, state of the country's environment is not on any political party's agenda yet. Not an electoral issue, that is.

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ROY JAMESSays:
Its a great editorial and gives brilliant insight into how India is being sold to polluters. Time for new governments to think in India.
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