Government orders a probe into alleged violations by big companies
The Tamil Nadu government on September 17 suspended sand mining on the beaches of the state. The government has ordered a probe into operations of 71 large quarries. Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa issued an order suspending operation of these quarries till the probe is over.
The order was issued immediately after receiving a report submitted by a special team led by revenue secretary Gagandeep Singh Bedi, which probed into indiscriminate mineral mining in six lease areas in the southern district of Tuticorin. These quarries are engaged in mining sand and major minerals such as ilmenite, rutile and garnet.
The 71 lease areas, where operations have been suspended, fall under Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari, Tiruchi and Madurai districts. The order of the chief minister says permission for transport of minerals will not be given till the probe is completed.
The issue of irregularities in mines of beach minerals came to the fore after former Tuticorin collector Ashish Kumar raided V V Minerals, a private sand quarry accused of large-scale illegal sand mining, last month. The raid report had revealed that the company had encroached upon 30 hectares of government land while the company’s lease allowed mining only on four hectares. The district collector was transferred the very next day after the crackdown.
It has been pointed out that the illegal sand mining has caused increasing sea erosion in the coastal districts. Fisher communities and organizations have been agitating against indiscriminate mining for long.
The chief minister in her statement has said that a policy decision on large mineral quarries would be taken soon after the receipt of the report on the functioning of quarries. This time, too, the probe will be headed by the revenue secretary.
The state government's order suspending sand mining in coastal villages and extending the special committee's probe into other districts brought cheer among the coastal communities and fishers organisations such as Meenavar Iyikkiya Munnani (Fishers United Front). "The government must reveal the findings of the committee to the public and initiate stringent action against the sand miners,” says Subash Fernando, secretary of the front. Besides, properties amassed by the mine owners should also be revealed, he adds.
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