BENGALURU: Mines and Geology Minister Murugesh Nirani, who visited Hirenagaveli village in Chikkaballapur taluk where six people died in a gelatin stick blast, on Tuesday said that the state has 177 stone quarries and of them 115 are active.He instructed officials to inspect quarries and mining areas that have hoarded explosives illegally. He warned of tough action against culprits behind the incident. “Tough action will be taken against those found using explosives without government permission.
A licence from the government is mandatory to use explosives. Criminal cases will be filed against those responsible for such incidents in future. Vehicles will be subjected to tough inspection at checkposts with the coordination of transport and home departments. Vehicles departing from the state and arriving from other states will be strictly monitored. Govt will enact a law making it mandatory to obtain licence to use explosives,” Nirani added.
Sources told The New Indian Express that most quarries do not have no-objection certificates or blasting licences which are mandatory to carry out quarrying operations. They require the permission of seven authorities, including revenue, forest, police and mines, to get the licences. The pendency of applications at revenue and other offices is high. In Chikkaballapur alone, the revenue office has over 40 ‘Form C’ applications that are pending for over six months now. The quarrying units, in the meantime, carry out operations illegally, sources said.
“It is an open secret that the quarries that do not have all the approvals have to pay hefty amounts as bribes to officials and local politicians. A senior leader’s father, who is a former zilla panchayat politician himself, collects around Rs 2 crore every month from the quarries here,” another source said.
The bribe amount is also to get information about any punitive action from police and other officials. On Tuesday night, quarry operators got a tipoff about a police raid, and immediately, they tried to shift explosives to makeshift hideouts -- which could be just a hole in the ground or a house at an isolated farm, the sources said.
“The explosion occurred around 12.30 am. Who would shift explosives in the dead of the night if everything is legitimate,” they asked.“The operators buy gelatin sticks illegally from suppliers, who raise fake bills. They use code words to get their supplies. A ‘small box’ means 100 gelatin sticks in four bundles of 25 sticks each, and a ‘big box’ means 500 sticks in 20 bundles. These sticks come with electronic detonators that are sensitive to mobile phone signals. The quarry owners would have wanted to move the explosives in a hurry, but obviously did not have trained labourers to do it which led to the explosion,” the sources added. Chikkaballapur is one of the areas in the state that has a high concentration