Minister of Mines and Geology Murugesh Nirani on Tuesday admitted that there was corruption in his department and said, “Wherever I go, people complain about having to pay bribes to department officials.”
He told the Legislative Council that this was raised even during a mine owners’ association meeting. As per the government’s answer, there were over 1,200 illegal quarrying sites and action had been initiated against 324 owners. Two officials in Bagalkot have been kept under suspension following complaints, he added.
He was speaking during a debate on the need for controlling illegal mining in the State in light of deaths due to explosions in Shivamogga and Chickballapur. “I have told them [people] to approach me if officials demand bribes. Despite this, if they give money what can I do?” he asked.
Earlier, Opposition members, including Leader of the Opposition S.R. Patil, had attacked the government over illegal quarrying and the two recent explosions at quarrying sites. The members asked why action was not being initiated against all illegal quarries. They also raised the issue of explosives being used without any regulation.
Part of the problem, Mr. Nirani explained, was that 40% of the department’s posts were lying vacant. “Mines officials, along with police and revenue officials, are part of the corruption. I am putting in my best efforts to curb corruption,” he said, adding that the current single-window system for issuing licence was not working properly.
Stating that a new mining policy would be released for consultation in the next 15 days, the Minister expressed hope that it would become a model for the neighbouring States as well. “This will also plug the existing loopholes, besides addressing incidents of double taxation in terms of collection of royalty,” he said. Furthermore, he said, mining adalats would be held across four regions to address various problems.
The government, the Minister said, was working towards a free sand policy in which sand would be allowed to be transported freely for government-tendered works. “This way, we can also work out the quantum of sand for calculating royalty,” he said. He added that the government was considering supplying sand free of cost to those building houses at a cost of less than ₹10 lakh in rural areas.