The iron ore mining in Karnataka has been described as “a rape of Mother Earth”.
Bellary has, over the past decade, emerged into India’s hot spot showing an amazing convergence of politics, business and crime. Reason- earth rich in iron ore. From 2002-2003 onwards, as demand for iron ore from China rose, never-ending lines of trucks would each day transport iron ore from Bellary and the adjoining districts to ports along the south-western and south-eastern coasts.
The Bellary region contributes roughly a fifth of the iron ore extracted in India. The quality of iron ore found in Bellary is one of the finest in the world, with an iron content of 60-65 per cent. Mining in and around Bellary district has led to lopsided human development. The district, which has a population of around two million, boasts a per capita income in excess of Rs 47,000, well above the average per capita income of Karnataka at Rs 41,000. But the literacy rate of Bellary at 57 per cent is well below the average literacy rate in the state at 67 per cent.
The Karnataka Human Development Report of 2005 ranked Bellary 18th among 27 districts. It ranked the district the lowest in terms of social indicators such as literacy, health and access to drinking water.
Although mining sector is very lucrative and is earning a lot but mostly mining is done now at the cost of the environment, the health of the children and the workers there. As no proper health, sanitation, education and medical facilities are provided by the miners. There are rules and regulations that the miners should provide all the basic facilities to the people engaged as well the people working there and there are constitutional safeguards also like article 14, 39, 41, 21 but nothing is done to control this rampant misuse of power by the influential people in Bellary and other adjoining districts.
Laws being violated in Bellary
Here is the list of some laws made for the mine workers which are being violated:-
a) On site health facilities for medical examination of persons employed in the mining are provided under Rule 29 B of Mines Rules, 1955. As per the recommendations of 9th and 10th Conference on Safety on Mines, health facilities are also extended to the persons engaged in mining activities.
b) As per Mines Rule depending upon the number of persons employed, health facilities as prescribed, in First-aid Centre are to be provided by the miner.
c) As per Mines Rule , the health facilities are mandated for different type of mines such as above ground, opencast and below ground.
d) Mines Act, 1952 requires that the mine Owner, Agent or Manager to report the diseases of the persons employed in the mining.
e) The violations of the above provision are liable to be punished under Section 66 of the Mines Act, 1952 with fine which may extend up to 1000/- Rupees.
f) Total number of violations detected in occupational health in last one year is 310 in the Central Zone and 220 in the Eastern Zone and details are placed at Annexure.
Thus,these laws are not at all implemented in a proper manner. Corruption has destroyed everything. it has become the answer to every law in the country. From the Chief Minister to the DFO’s everybody was working and allowing working the miners in an illegal way.
Political situation and Gross injustice in Bellary
The people of Bellary will have long term consequences. They don’t even have clean drinking water and good food and thus a lot of them have become anaemic.
All this is gross violation of human rights. These people are even devoid of their fundamental rights. As they are not educated so they are unable to raise their voice themselves.
Although after the report of the Lokayukta on illegal mining which showed the zero-risk system that was being followed by everybody the Chief Minister Yedurrappa Reddy resigned. After all this again everybody has become silent. People of Bellary will have no effect of CM’s resignation, they will be happy if something is done for them. if they are relieved of the red dust. But everybody has again forgotten about this. But the SC judgement on this case has been a breather for them atleast.
Why no punishment is being given to those who have caused all this, who have violated all human laws and our constitution also, because of whom our country lost 1600 crores and also many lives of people. Why everybody and every office of government are silent on it?
The mining sector is saying if the leases are cancelled then a lot of people would suffer from unemployment. but in my view it’s better to be unemployed then to die of sickness. And also who have made them unemployed, these miners only. They have made their lands barren by illegal mining and destroyed their only source of livelihood and thus they were forced to be engaged in mining only as a source of income.
What can be done for people in Bellary?
In my view the following steps must be taken by the government to save the future of the small children working there and to prevent the people from health hazards-
1) The laws made for the children and mines workers should be implemented in a strict manner.
2) An enquiry must be done by the Government of India and Karnataka on the exploitation of children in the mine and violation of children’s rights in the area
3) Legal action by the Department of Labour under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, and The Bonded Labour System Abolition Act, 1976 must be immediately taken against the employers.
4) Mining leases should be cancelled to those who have employed child labour, gross human rights violations of adults, both men and women and children.
5) Proper health facilities should be provided.
6) Government must immediately take action towards release and rehabilitation of all child labour in the area.
7) The Centre should immediately conduct an enquiry in all the mining areas in different states and come up with a country report on child labourers in the mines. The report must be allowed for public scrutiny.
8)People there should be made aware of their rights by educating them properly.
9) Punishment should be given to the guilty miners according to the law.
This issue should not be taken in a light manner as the lives and future of many is at stake.
Everybody from the reporters, society, NGO’s to politicians should do their best to save these people and to punish those who are guilty of doing all this to our environment and people.
Picture Courtesy: Murali Kumar for Frontline