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For diamond hunters in Anantapur and Kurnool districts, all that glitters is gold
As the monsoon arrives every year in June and remains active in July and beyond, it kindles hope not only to farmers but also to diamond and semi-precious stone hunters, some of them are lucky enough to strike it rich
As the monsoon arrives every year in June and remains active in July and beyond, it kindles hope not only to farmers but also to diamond and semi-precious stone hunters, some of them are lucky enough to strike it rich. As the early rains lash all over, few places have over the years had emerged notoriously famous for diamond stone finds.
Even as the early rains wash the upper layer of the agriculture fields diamond stones or what are even called semi-precious stones surface. Some of these stones resembling diamonds change the fortunes of at least a few and the stories of some who over the years had really struck it rich began to entice the poor people as well as the middle class sections to mostly the regions of Jonnagiri and Vajrakarur villages in the district. Jonnagiri is a village on the Kurnool and Gooty border.
"All that glitters is not gold" is a popular saying but the Jonnagiri and Vajrakarur diamond villages had proved it wrong. After a rainfall the glittering stones that surface from the inner layer of the soil is attracting people from all over the state and neighboring states. These glittering diamonds that are fetching finders from lakhs of rupees to crores are actually dwarfing the monetary value of gold. No wonder the volume of diamond hunters are increasing every year especially in the context of Covid pandemic which ruined the economy of all sections of people.
Raju, (not real name), a villager from the region is reluctant to identify himself for fear of police and his own security reasons. Speaking to 'The Hans India' on telephone admitted that the diamond he found in Jonnagiri village agriculture field fetched him Rs. 1.5 crore. He suspects that the value of the diamond could be much more as the merchant himself offered him that much amount just to prevent a situation wherein other merchants might step in and offer much more. But for Raju this amount itself is mind boggling. He is happy that this fortune would take care of all financial problems, clear all debts and give him a new life of luxury. He said he paid Rs.6 lakhs to the police and another Rs.4 lakhs to the revenue personnel.
Treasure hunters from Macherla, Piduguralla, Gudivada, Ongole, Singarayakonda and also from Karnataka stay in Gooty lodges, railway station, prepare food and start to work by 6 am and stay till 8 pm searching for valuable diamonds and precious stones in the surrounding areas. Recently, within a span of 48 hours, three 'diamond hunters' have reportedly struck it rich by stumbling upon precious stones at Jonnagiri village in Tuggali mandal at border with Kurnool district, which reportedly fetched them Rs 2.4 crore.
Jonnagiri sub-inspector R Suresh revealed that Kasim, a driver from Chinnagiri, had chanced upon a diamond while hunting for precious stones in a farmland at Jonnagiri in the month of July. The entire operation is normally a secret, he said, adding that those who find the precious stones are not aware of their real value. Kasim has no knowledge of the exact value of the diamond he found. It is learnt that the diamond fetched him Rs 1.2 crore. Two agriculture labourers had also chanced upon diamonds in June. They reportedly sold the diamonds for Rs 70 lakh and Rs 50 lakh. Locals said the hunt for diamonds came down last year due to the nationwide lockdown.
The rains in July had prompted many families to leave their homes on diamond hunt in several places of Anantapur and Kurnool districts. People live in makeshift tents between June and September in Basinepalle, Cheruvu Thanda, Erragudi, Jonnagiri, Tuggali, Maddikera, Pagidirai, Peravali, Mahanandi and Mahadevapuram, which are diamond rich places in the districts.
Diamonds, according to reports, show up after rains wash away several layers of earth. Many people focus on areas around ancient temples for diamond hunt as it is believed that Sri Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara empire and his minister Timmarusu hid a big treasure of diamonds and gold ornaments near the temples.
Apart from locals, several enthusiasts from neighbouring districts like Kadapa, Guntur and Prakasam of AP and Bellary of Karnataka also test their luck by going on diamond hunting. Some years ago, a team of scientists from the US and Australia representing some foreign firms, oversaw excavations in the above areas as part of their exploration. A foreign company took 50-acre land at Mahanandi and Mahadevapuram near Nallamala forest for lease and has been carrying out excavations using heavy machinery for the last five years.
In the past, another international firm had conducted excavations in Maddikera, Jonnagiri, Peravali, Basinipalle, Madanahantha and Hampa villages but gave up after few trials. Mahatma Gandhi's grandson Tushar Gandhi too had readied plans for diamond mining by adopting Pagidirai, P Kothur and Chinnajonnagiri villages. He also visited Maddikera and Tuggali villages five years ago and told locals that 25 per cent of earnings from sale of diamonds would be spent for the development of villages from where the diamonds are found. Maddikera villagers revealed that they keep finding diamonds near their village on regular basis.
Diamond hunting is not a new thing in Kurnool district and it has been going on for the last five decades. According to the villagers of Peravali and Jonnagiri, local merchants and middlemen sell the diamonds procured from villagers to big traders in Gooty of Anantapur district at a high price.
Golla Mallikarjuna, a diamond hunter, said that after the start of rainy season, diamond merchants from Mumbai and Chennai would come down to Gooty and Pathikonda to purchase diamonds. They would return after the completion of rainy season. The merchants taking the advantage of people's innocence, would purchase at low price and sell them at higher prices, added Mallikarjuna.