Still no relief

deepa kozhisseri Bangalore

though the menace of the forest brigand Veerappan has ended in Kollegal district of Karnataka, it has exposed the area to another problem, mining, an activity previously checked. The state government had banned mining of black granite in Kollegal in August 1992. It feared the outlaw might get access to explosives used in mining and also pose a threat to quarry owners.

The state government recently revoked the ban and announced fresh leases to be given for mining of black granite in the area. T N Venugopal, joint director, department of mines and geology (dmg), government of Karnataka says, "There is no question of getting clearance from the forest department as leases will be given only in revenue and patta land.'' Principal secretary, forest, ecology and environment, Shivkumar K M too validates Venugopal's claim that mining will not be permitted in the reserve forest. Kollegal, however, is mostly forested. There are over 50 applications for renewal of license with the dmg who has said that instead of renewal, fresh leases will be given.

Karnataka ranks fourth amongst granite exporting states. Prior to the ban the industry had a turnover of Rs 50-Rs 100 crore annually and the government got Rs 3 crore royalty annually.

Mining was banned after sandalwood smuggler Veerappan held quarry owners to ransom. It was feared explosives from the quarries were making their way into the outlaw's camp.

dmg says mining was being resumed due to pressing demands from quarry owners and the union. But it is suspected that the loss of the royalty is the main motivating force.

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