Bayyaram: New focus for Telangana

Bayyaram: New focus for Telangana

Through allocation of iron ore mines in Bayyaram of Khammam district to Visakha Steel Plant, a new controversy has been raised, and Telangana people...

Through allocation of iron ore mines in Bayyaram of Khammam district to Visakha Steel Plant, a new controversy has been raised, and Telangana people are fuming against diversion of their resources. It is being argued that unbalanced development within the region is due to wrong policies of successive governments.

The iron ore mines are spread over 5,342 hectares in Bayyaram, Garla and Nelakondapally mandals in Khammam and Gudurmandal in Warangal. The Indian Bureau of Mines had estimated their value at Rs. 16 lakh crore. The Kiran Kumar Reddy government cancelled in 2012 the lease of Bayyaram iron ore mines spread across three mandals in Khammam district. Around 1.4 lakh acres of land was leased to a joint venture of AP Minerals Development Corporation Ltd (APMDCL) and Rakshana Steels for iron ore mining.

The TDP and other political opponents alleged that Rakshana Steels belonged to a member of the YSR family and attributed ulterior motives of profit-making behind this circuitous allocation of rich resources to kith and kin. The huge tract bearing iron ore was given to Rakshana Steels on the lines of the bauxite agreement that APMDCL had signed with Anrak in Visakhapatnam district in 2007. The GO ratifying the joint venture of APMDCL and Rakshana Steels in 2009 explicitly mentioned the Anrak bauxite agreement. It is alleged that to benefit Rakshana Steels, both the successive Congress governments circumvented the Land Transfer Regulation Act 1959 and the Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation Act 1957.

These two Acts prevent non-tribals from conducting mining activities in tribal areas. To bypass the clauses, the State government issued GO No 64 on June 30, 2010, by which it handed over 56690 hectares (1.4 lakh acres) in Khammam district for 10 years to APMDCL which, in turn, transferred the land to a joint venture of APMDCL and Rakshana Steels by which the land finally landed with the private company.

To facilitate this, the YSR regime had constituted the APMDCL-Rakshana joint venture by a GO (No 69) on February 24, 2009. This GO was signed by then mining Secretary Y Srilakshmi, who is now in Chanchalguda jail after being arrested in the illegal mining case by the CBI.

Incidentally, GO 69 said: "The terms and conditions as stipulated in the bauxite agreement with M/S Anrak hold good." Even though the process for Bayyaram lease was initiated in 2006 by the YSR government, GO 64 was issued when K Rosaiah was the chief minister. GO 64 was signed by then mining secretary Ranjeev R Acharya, wife of BP Acharya, the IAS officer who is in jail now in the Emaar scam. This decision rocked the session of Assembly in 2010 and the tribal organizations from the region opposed the lease. Environmental organizations objected to the project as more than one-third of the leased land was covered by habitations, roads and railway lines.

Even the way the land was transferred to Rakshana Steels was problematic. The GO 64 said, "Being the public sector organisation, M/S AP Mineral Development Corporation Ltd has vast experience in scientific mining and development of mineral resources including iron ore." Ultimately the APMDCL transferred the land to Rakshana Steels, saying that it was a joint venture partner.A The pressure was so high that the Chief Minister Rosaiah had to write to Center which directed cancellation of GO 64 assigning land to Rakshana.

Unfortunately or fortunately like most backward regions in the world, Telangana region is also rich in several mineral resources. Telangana people are agitating against the indiscriminate plunder of these mineral resources. Bayyaram Iron Ore is one such valuable resource, which, if utilized correctly, can provide a great boost to the development of future Telangana state. It can be said that the Telangana movement has successfully thwarted an attempt to plunder the Bayyaram Iron Ore in the earlier Government.

In that context cancellation of that lease and reallocation of those mines for public sector undertaking Visakha, which is one of Navratnas in India, appears to be good measures. But for Telanganaite is in fact fatal diversion of resources. World over it is the common and best practice that factories are established near the resource points of raw material. Thermal power generating stations are established near the coal mines, called pit-head units, obviously to avoid unnecessary transport cost which would be forever and all through the seasons. Same is valid for the steel plant which depends upon iron ore. Bayyaram area in Khammam can be a better location for establishing a new Steel Factory, instead of transporting the ore to a far off place.

Mines and minerals belong to people in general. Then the question is to which people. Naturally those who suffer from its consequences for being in proximity to those mines should enjoy the benefits too.

Immediate reaction from the non-Telangana, rather anti-Telangana political factions to the strong criticism against the diversion and exploitation of Telangana resources, was that iron ore being a national wealth could be allocated to national public sector body Visakha Steel. National or public body does not mean that people around could be denied or should be left to suffer from the consequences of effluence while distant groups enjoy other benefits.

Another point of criticism is that instead of an individual being benefitted, now the state allocated it to the public sector undertaking, which is certainly a better proposition. Yes it is. But the best proposition could be establishing a dedicated factory for steel production in Bayyaram. Pro-Telangana parties and Congress leaders from the region took exception to the Chief Minister allocating resources of one region to a manufacturing facility located in another region.

The slogan earlier was Visakha Ukku Andhrula Hakku, now it became Bayyaram Ukku Telangana Hakku. In between another negative slogan emerged opposing "Visakha ku Ukku Telangana ku Tukku", indicating that when raw ore is purified in Bayyaram it leaves tonnes of wastage there while purified ore is transported to Visakha. Bayyaram is a right place for steel factory which has several locational advantages. Coal � an important raw material for steel production is available at Illendu, which is just 24 Km away. Dolomite � another important raw material is available at Madharam, located at about 15 Km from Bayyaram.

Water necessary for the steel plant can be drawn from Pakhalalake or Otteru and Alugeru streams located nearby. While a modern integrated Steel Plant can have a captive power plant, any extra power requirement can be met by the KTPS power plant in Palvancha located about 75 Km from Bayyaram. Such a plant will definitely generate employment to thousands of tribals in Khammam and Warangal districts. It will also fetch thousands of crores of revenue to the government every year.

Union Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo wrote on September 27, 2012, to the AP Government to cancel the leases invoking the provisions of Clause 3 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution and report compliance to him. A The State signed agreements with Jindal South West Aluminium Limited, Anrak Aluminium Limited, and National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO) during 2005-10. The government, in the MoUs, had promised to supply the mineral through the AP Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC). Before Mr. Deo's directive, the then Minister for Mining, B.K.Handique, issued orders in August 2010 putting on hold all the clearances issued for bauxite mining in the scheduled areas till the concerns on livelihood and threat to ecology were addressed.

As per the Constitution only the State, its instruments or tribal themselves forming into a cooperative society should explore the minerals in the Fifth Schedule areas. Tribal organizations hailed the bold decision and hoped. It is the constitutional mandate of the state to respect the authority and sanctity of the Tribal Advisory Committee and allocate rich mineral resources to local tribals and not to the far off places.

The writer is Professor and Coordinator, Center for Media Law and Public Policy, NALSAR University, Hyderabad

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