July 1, 2010 4:26:36 am
For the first time,Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa has admitted the existence of an illegal iron ore export racket in the state,including the transport of 35 lakh metric tonnes of iron ore to a local port without any licences or permits in recent months.
Looting has taken place but we are determined to end it, said Yeddyurappa on the floor of the Assembly on Wednesday as the Congress and JD(S) protested in the well of the House seeking an adjournment motion to discuss the illegal ore issue and the resignation of the Lokayukta,allegedly over the governments indifference to corruption.
Iron ore has gone without licences. An application has been filed in the High Court about this. We are looking at it why it has happened. We want to be open about it. We will not protect anyone. We want to look at all records for exports that have happened in the last eight to 10 years,and look at the status of licences and permits issued for them, said Yeddyurappa.
According to him,as much as 48 lakh MT of iron ore were shipped out of the country from the controversial Bellekeri port near the Karwar coast in 2007-08 without licences and permits being accounted for.
The Chief Ministers response came after Opposition leader Siddaramaiah badgered for an adjournment motion to discuss the issue,saying the BJP government was directly involved in the mining scam since the illegal exports have happened largely on its watch in the state. The government must not support the looting of natural resources, he said.
Meanwhile,in the Karnataka High Court,four out of eight exporters who had sought release of their seized iron ore stocks from the Bellikeri port sought to withdraw their petitions. An advocate for the Karnataka forest department,however,argued against the withdrawal plea saying it would amount to an abuse of law.
The four petitioners who sought to withdraw their pleas are PJS Overseas who have claimed rights over 16,000 MT iron ore,Doddanna Brothers who have claimed 31,000 MT,ILC Industries with 33,000 MT claim and Ashapura Minechem with a 5,000 MT claim.
These petitioners,along with four others,had earlier filed pleas seeking the release of a total of 3 lakh MT of iron ore seized at the Bellikeri port stockyard after the Lok Ayukta and forest officials found that the material was transported for export without licences. The 3 lakh MT was part of a total stock of 8 lakh MT of iron ore seized at the port by the forest department. The remaining was not claimed by anybody,but has subsequently disappeared from the port stockyard,according to a police complaint filed by the forest department.
The forest department,in its application before the court,has said the exporters seeking release of the illegal ore had conspired with government officials to illegally ship out the seized iron ore stocks from the Bellikeri port. The forest department has sought directions to Customs authorities to halt all export of iron ore from ports in Karnataka to facilitate investigation into export racket.
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