Kadapa: In the wake of a shocking mishap which claimed 10 lives and left many injured, public debate has turned to those responsible for the explosion of gelatine sticks at the white barytes quarry at Mamillapalle in Kasinayana Mandal in Kadapa district on Saturday.
Police, revenue, mines and geology and pollution control departments are generally responsible for overseeing blasting operations in quarries and mines. The mines department officials were reportedly well aware that illegal mining was brazenly taking place at the quarry. Also, the police and the revenue departments turn blind eye to those running explosives businesses without any permits or licences. The pollution control board officials do not seem to know which quarries are operating without environmental permits.
First of all, prime responsibility rests with the department of mines. It is a common practice that those in possession of licence mineral extraction licences sell them away to the highest bidder illegally. Officials are said to be in cahoots with the illegal miners and look the other way even as ore worth crores of rupees is illegally extracted and sold. They also do not check if those operating mines have proper environmental permits.
While Mangampet is famous for gray barytes in Kadapa district, white barites are available in small quantities in areas including Vemula and Vempalle. This ore is usually mined underground. The mines in Vemula and Vempalle areas have not been operational for the past few years due to water seepage in the underground mines adjoining the Pulivendula branch canal. It is alleged that some miners are illegally extracting the ore and are using permits issued in the name of non-operative mines to sell it in the market.
In the case of those selling explosives, dealers must have specialised vehicles to transport safely. Those engaged in illegally selling explosives reportedly brought the gelatine sticks in a normal vehicle not fit for the purpose, which apparently led to the mishap. The failure of police and revenue officials to check the activities of such illegal dealers was a main reason for unfortunate incidents such as the one on Saturday. Political interference and corruption is cited for the officials turning wilful partners in the crime.
As for the alleged complicity of pollution control board officials, proper inspections of mining sites could have unearthed any illegal and unsafe activities. Though the regulations issued by the government in 2016 say the mines department should not issue any permits unless there are environmental permits, it is learnt hundreds of mines are operating in the district without any such permits.