With the State government cancelling the Bayyaram iron ore mining lease earlier granted to Rakshana Steels, a company allegedly belonging to former Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s kin, the demand for recovery of the lost mineral wealth has gained momentum.
An enormous extent of over 1.41 lakh acres of iron-rich areas spread across Bayyaram, Garla and Nelakondapalli mandals in Khammam district and Gudur in the neighbouring Warangal district was allotted to Rakshana Steels for exploration of iron ore in joint venture with Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC) in 2009.
The move triggered intense protests from the Opposition parties, mainly the TDP and the Left parties in the district. It also evoked widespread condemnation from various tribal organisations, which termed the lease as illegal on the ground that the land allotted to Rakshana Steels fell under scheduled area. A section of the ruling Congress party leaders too raised objections over the allotment.
The Left parties, particularly the CPI, staged a series of agitations denouncing the alleged benami mining activities in the mineral rich areas of Bayyaram and Garla mandals. “The district has already suffered extensive loss of mineral wealth due to the illegal mining of iron ore reserves in the last three years,” charged CPI senior leader and Kothagudem MLA K Sambasiva Rao.
MISUSE OF POWER
It is estimated that the lands allotted to Rakshana Steels in gross misuse of power by the then Rajasekhara Reddy regime contained iron ore reserves to an extent of 54 million tonnes worth about Rs. 80 lakh crore, he said.
“The delay in cancellation of the lease proved costly for the district as a significant chunk of iron ore and barytes deposits were extracted clandestinely,” he alleged. The government should assess the loss of mineral wealth by roping in the services of Indian Bureau of Mines and recover the lost property on account of illegal mining by invoking the Revenue Recovery Act, he demanded.
The government should set up a steel factory in the public sector at Bayyaram to promote industrial development and create employment avenues to the tribal youth of the district, said CPI district secretary B. Hemantha Rao. The properties earned by the mining mafia should be confiscated and all those involved in aiding and abetting the loot of mineral wealth should be punished, he said.