Bengaluru: Greed is once again rearing its ugly head in iron-ore rich Bellary. Already nearly sucked dry of its natural resources by indiscriminate mining, the district has been presented with another goldmine for the corrupt to fill their coffers with - the Rs 30,000 crore Comprehensive Environment Plan for the Mining Impact Zone (CEPMIZ) drawn up for reclamation and rehabilitation of land destroyed by illegal mining in Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur districts.
While one NGO, Samaj Parivartan Samudaya, took on the iron ore miners - some very powerful ones with a big foot in politics - a number of voluntary groups have now mushroomed with an eye on the money. Bellary will soon be flooded with to restore its environment ravaged by the illegal miners.
A rush is on in the Bellary-Sandur-Hospet region to bag licenses of civil works to be carried out and newly floated NGOs are collecting thousands of rupees for membership from farmers and mine workers with the promise of huge financial benefits under various schemes of the Karnataka Mining Environment Restoration Corporation (KMERC), the special purpose vehicle (SPV) set up by the state government to carry out the restoration process.
Having taken miners to task, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court had recommended a Rs 30,000 crore mega project to undo the damage done to the environment of Bellary and other districts of Karnataka by their illegal operations. The green bench of the Supreme Court later directed the state government to set up a company to formulate and implement projects under the CEPMIZ and so KMERC was born on June 27 this year with an official gazette notification.
This was all the signal they needed. Like vultures waiting to pounce on a new prey, many professional civil work contractors, small time politicians, loyalists of powerful politicians and mining barons are now eyeing the contracts for development work under KEMRC and have also allegedly floated NGOs to dupe villagers and swindle the money that Bellary will soon be flush with.
“Shockingly, many of those who have floated such NGOs are beneficiaries of illegal mining and now they are set to grab the cream of KMERC funds by floating NGOs which have absolutely no expertise or concern for the affected people,” says Mr T. M. Shivakumar, an advocate and president of the Sandur Citizens Welfare Forum.
The rush to milk the new goldmine began after reports that each gram panchayat in the mining impacted area would around Rs 5 crore for developmental work under the CEPMIZ. Spread over 30 years, starting from financial year 2012-13, the rehabilitation programme is set to end in 2043-44, according to the CEC report of October 10, 2012.
Panchayat Development Officers (PDOs) have been reportedly told to prepare an action plan for spending the Rs 5 crore to be released by the KMERC. And going by official sources, the mining hub of the Sandur forest range alone will get Rs 200 crore for rehabilitation and reclamation of devastated forest areas.
With such huge money involved, elected representatives in the mining region are making a beeline to submit major action plans worth hundreds of crore with no vision or substance to grab some of the funds.
Taluk revenue and forest department officials admit in private that they are not competent to prepare an action plan for utilising the several crores coming to the region the orders of the Supreme Court for restoration of the degraded environment and protection of natural and human resources. “I have been asked to prepare an action plan for several crores in a span of a week.
In reality, the job of preparing such a standard action plan involving several crores cannot be done by an officer of the rank of PDO or a Forest Range Officer. It can only be done by a reputed and expert institution. We can merely give inputs and assist in preparing such a plan,” says one officer.
Meanwhile, while briefing reporters after the Cabinet meeting recently, law minister, T. B. Jayachandra had said the KMERC would be established with an initial corpus fund of Rs 3,500 crore. Going by the CEC, an amount of about Rs 9,347 crore is expected to be available to the SPV during the first five years of the project.
Source of funds
Money received by the monitoring committee as 10 per cent of the iron ore sale proceeds, and compensation and penalty from illegal miners, from auctioning of around 46 C category mines and revene earned from assigning state-owned Mysore Minerals Ltd operated mining leases is expected to fund the programme.
Structure of KMERC:
It is headed by the additional chief secretary and the development commissioner and includes 12 others as Director Members.
They are secretaries of mines, forests, PWD, RDPR and health, deputy commissioner of Bellary , a representative from the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries and two directors nominated by the state government.