Ever since allegations about irregularities in beach mineral mining in Thoothukudi started emerging, demands for its takeover by the State government started getting louder. Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s recent announcement that her government would take a policy decision on mineral mining based on the report to be filed by a special team headed by Revenue Secretary Gagandeep Singh Bedi after inspecting 71 quarries in four southern districts, has further fuelled curiosity.
Activists recall that in 2003, the AIADMK regime headed by Jayalalithaa had taken over sand quarrying to prevent massive irregularities and clean up the sector. They hope she would replicate that model in the case of mineral mining as well. A section of vocal political parties are already on board, but the key opposition party, the DMK, is conspicuous by its silence.
Parties like the CPM, MDMK, MMK and PMK have expressed strong views on mineral mining. CPM’s State council welcomed Jayalalithaa’s recent directive on inspection of 71 mineral mining quarries in the four southern districts. Its State secretary G Ramakrishnan urged the chief minister to take criminal action against those involved in illicit mineral mining and seize their revenue. He forcefully argued his case for the government taking over mineral mining.
Ramakrishnan pointed out that illicit mineral mining had caused huge losses to the State exchequer and impacted the livelihood resources of the coastal people. Since minerals would exhaust at some point in time, unabated mining would create environmental problems. He also drew attention to the Supreme Court’s observation that government is the custodian of natural resources and it was its duty to protect them.
MDMK general secretary Vaiko urged the State government to stop mineral mining across the coastal areas in Tamil Nadu to protect the livelihood resources of fishermen. He said the licenses given to companies engaged in mineral mining should be cancelled immediately and the losses caused to fishermen by these companies reimbursed.
Illicit mineral mining with the help of mega machines in the coastal areas have changed the sea currents, resulting in sea water intrusion in coastal districts. The radiation from the extraction of rare minerals has resulted in health hazards for coastal people. He blamed the sand mafia for dividing coastal villages for their own selfish motives.
PMK founder S Ramadoss reiterated his demand for taking over mineral mining by the State government. sources. MMK leader Jawahirullah too welcomed the decision to suspend mineral mining until the inspection of the special team is over.