Hegde backs Yeddyurappa’s plea to ban ore exports

Bangalore, July 3 (IANS) Karnataka Lok Ayukta (ombudsman) N. Santosh Hegde who withdrew his resignation Saturday, said he supports state Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa’s appeal to the prime minister to ban export of iron ore and other minerals.

‘It is a wonderful idea. It can be put in place without difficulty, though there will be lobbies (against the ban),’ Hegde told reporters in the presence of Yeddyyurappa and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari here.

Gadkari and Yeddyurappa met Hegde to persuade him to withdraw resignation, submitted June 23, as he was frustrated at government’s indifference to fighting corruption and also checking illegal mining in the state.

They met Hegde after senior BJP leader L.K. Advani talked to him over phone to take back the resignation as the BJP government in Karnataka will consider his suggestions and demands.

In his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, released to the media Saturday, Yeddyurappa said: ‘There is an urgent need for a comprehensive policy to ban export of iron ore and ensure such precious minerals are utilised for value addition within the country.’

The chief minister’s letter came in the wake of a raging controversy in the state over rampant export of illegal iron ore from the rich mineral districts of north Karnataka over the years.

Hegde said Yeddyruappa has strongly recommended that export of iron ore and other minerals be banned or at least strictly regulated.

‘I have high hopes the prime minister will give it a thought,’ said Hegde, who has submitted a voluminous report on illegal mining activity in Karnataka last year.

‘All the chief ministers should be consulted in the matter. There are states with huge mineral resources where as Karnataka has only iron and manganese ore. There are lobbies, I would say mafia, active (in mining and export). But it is not difficult to control them,’ he asserted.

On chances of stopping illegal mining activity in Karnataka, Hegde said: ‘Absolutely is the answer. Whosoever, howsoever powerful they may be, will be stopped, if Yeddyurappa implements the assurances he has given.’

The three main political parties in Karnataka, the BJP, th Congress and Janata Dal-Secular, have mining barons in their ranks.

Two BJP ministers, G. Janardhana Reddy, tourism, and his elder brother G. Karunakara Reddy, revenue, are mining magnates with their mines in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh facing charges of forest land encroachment and massive illegal mining of iron ore.

Hegde quit June 23 as he found himself helpless to protect a deputy conservator of forests R. Gokul, whose suspension was sought by Ports Minister J. Krishna Palemar after the official had, on the orders of Hegde, seized 800,000 tonnes of illegally mined ore stored at Belekeri port in Uttara Kannada district.

Of this 500,000 tonnes have been exported using forged documents and both Hegde’s team and the state crime investigation department are probing the illegal export.

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