Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa on Saturday made a U-turn on illegal mining and quarrying as he went from first declaring that his government will not allow them, only to retract it later, asserting that such activities can be regularised.
"I will not allow illegal mining. Whoever wants to take up mining can do so only after obtaining a licence," Yediyurappa had told reporters here before leaving for Mysuru and thereafter to Shivamogga, his home district, where a massive explosion killed five people late on Thursday night.
In Mysuru, Yediyurappa told reporters that mining and quarrying are inevitable for development.
"There are road works and highway projects for which mining and quarrying are needed. But illegal mining can't be allowed. It's not good for anyone, including those indulging in it," he said, adding that illegal miners can file an application to regularise the illegal mining and continue their activities.
"We will have no objection. If they fail to get their mines regularised, deputy commissioners have been instructed to do a spot inspection and take appropriate action," he said.
After visiting the blast site in Shivamogga, Yediyurappa contradicted his own cabinet ministers' statements that the quarry where the massive explosion took place was in the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ). "How can a quarry or mining be allowed in an eco-sensitive zone," he asked.
He reiterated that a comprehensive probe has been ordered to look into the blast incident. "What caused the blast? Who gave permission for such a huge amount of explosives to be transported? All these will be looked into and we will take action against those found guilty," he said.
As soon as Yediyurappa's statements were aired on local news channels, they drew sharp reactions from the Leader of the Opposition, Siddaramaiah. "Isn't illegal mining a crime? What's the punishment for that? How can he talk of regularisation being in a responsible position," he asked.
Yediyurappa's statement amounted to "cooperation" for illegalities, Siddaramaiah said.
"Regularising illegal mining can not be equated to regularising illegal homes or lands. In that case, what's the relevance of the existence of the mines and geology department," he asked.
The Congress leader also claimed he has spoken to the deputy commissioner of Shivamogga.
"Gelatine and dynamite were brought in without licence from Andhra Pradesh. This is the first offence. That they weren't stored safely is the second offence. It's clear that the incident took place due to the negligence of the officials," he said, adding that Yediyurappa and the minister in-charge of Shivamogga, K.S. Eshwarappa, must take the blame.
(With inputs from IANS)