Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lok Satta demands cancellation of all Mining leases and fresh allotment

The Lok Satta Party today welcomed the Andhra Pradesh Government decision, although belated, to halt mining of iron ore by six companies in Anantapur district as suggested by a Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee.

Talking to the media, Lok Satta Party spokespersons --- said, “It is not enough if mining is suspended for the time being. The Government should straightway cancel all mining leases and allot them afresh on the basis of international competitive bidding.”

The Lok Satta leaders pointed out that Andhra Pradesh is endowed with precious natural resources like iron ore, bauxite, and granite to name a few. The present policy of awarding leases on a first-come-first-served basis is flawed in that it gives scope for favoritism, nepotism and corruption, whichever party happens to be in power in the State. There is scope for corruption not merely in the grant of leases but also in the fixation of royalty to the Government. For instance, while the Karnataka Government is collecting a levy of Rs.1000 on every truckload of iron ore lifted from mines in that State, the Andhra Pradesh Government is still “thinking” of levying some charge.

In international competitive bidding, the mines can be leased to the highest bidders and Government revenue maximized.

Both the print and the electronic media have been carrying reports of illegal mining of minor minerals all over the State. The financially hard pressed Andhra Pradesh should not forgo the opportunity of stepping up its mineral revenue by granting leases only to highest bidders in competitive bidding.

The Lok Satta leaders pointed out that illegal mining of minerals ranging from iron ore to sand could not take place without the collusion of politicians and officials with leaseholders. The built-in corruption in the system could be tackled if the Prevention of Corruption Act is implemented to bring all elected representatives ranging from MPs and MLAs to MPP presidents and sarpanches under the purview of the Act, independent investigative and prosecuting mechanisms introduced and fast track courts formed at the rate of at least one for each district. The Act should be amended for the seizure of properties of the accused pending trial and their forfeiture, if the accused are found guilty.

“Otherwise, the day for the emergence of many Madhu Kodas in Andhra Pradesh will not be too far. Minting millions of rupees ever day in mining operations, the mining lobby will not be satisfied with dabbling in politics; it would like to dictate politics as was witnessed in our neighboring State Karnataka in the recent past. The problem is not merely with mining mafias, it is one of illegitimate money and big money capturing all levers of power and fast-converting our democracy into a plutocracy.”

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