Increasing political heat over Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, environment minister Jairam Ramesh has imposed a ban in considering new mining projects from the state till the CM implements the Lokayukta's report fully.
Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hedge in his report in 2010 had unearthed an illegal mining racket in the Bellary district, where mining was being done in areas for which no permission was taken. He also found that the ore being excavated was more that what had been permitted.
"In furtherance to the objective of controlling illegalities in mining areas, the Central government has decided to impose moratorium on all fresh mining lease applications in Bellary district with immediate effect," said Umakant, assistant inspector general of forests, in his order.
What prompted the order was Karnataka government's failure to heed to the ministry's repeated advice to take concrete action on stopping illegalities in mining areas. "Not much action had been taken," an official said.
The first casualty of the project was Jindal Steel of Sajjan Jindal, which had sought final forest clearance for its iron ore and manganese in Kumaraswamy Range in the Bellary district. The permission was denied and a moratorium was imposed on all new projects from Bellary.
Ramesh added more conditions on the moratorium by asking the state government to present a concrete plan to put in place a foolproof mechanism to control illegal mining and give a time-bound implementation schedule for the same.
He also wanted the state government to present an action taken report on the Lokayukta's report on the illegal mining in the Bellary district, where he had indicted Reddy brothers for being behind the illegal acts in the mining area. Ramesh also wanted to know against whom the cases for illegalities in mining have been booked as claimed by Yeddyurappa and what action has been taken against them.
"The moratorium imposed by the MoEF on fresh applications for diversion of forest land for mining purposes should continue until these concrete actions are taken," Ramesh said in a letter to Karnataka CM.
The letter was written on the day former Prime Minister Dewe Gowda offered in Lok Sabha a CBI inquiry into all cases of corruption in the state, including during tenure of his son H D Kumaraswamy as state chief minister. "I am ready to get arrested if any corruption charges against me are proved," he said, even as BJP members opposed him for raising the Karnataka issue in the house.