Five years and many court cases later, the most scathing indictment of the beach sand mining industry in Tamil Nadu becomes public
The Gagandeep Singh Bedi report, as it has now come to be called, has kicked up much dust in Tamil Nadu. The report is by a Special Team comprising 129 officials of various state government departments. Team lead Gagandeep Singh Bedi is a senior IAS officer in Tamil Nadu, who was then the Revenue Secretary of the state. He is currently the Secretary for Agriculture. Then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa constituted this Special Team to probe into allegations of large scale illegal mining of beach sand in the districts of Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Kanyakumari, Madurai and Trichy.
Much water has flown under the bridge in the past five years since Bedi began his probe. He finished with Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts and was proceeding towards Madurai and Trichy, when the miners slapped a series of cases against him. Bedi was biased against them, they alleged. He did not take their depositions, they claimed.
Allegations and mudslinging followed against the senior IAS officer, who simply showed the courts that he had not favoured anyone and explained the intricate methodology used to check and cross check the findings of the team. He repeatedly said that the miners had been given a fair hearing. All to no avail.
The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court halted the probe in August 2015 and replaced Bedi with a retired judge as the head of the Special Team. But a month later, the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court stayed the replacement of Bedi but the probe itself continued to remain stalled.
The Opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) kicked up a storm in the state Assembly, with Leader of the Opposition MK Stalin waving a newspaper in the House, demanding that the Bedi report be tabled in the House. O Panneerselvam, who was then the Chief Minister, threw up his hands, saying the report was sub judice and not much could be done to make it public.
Now thanks to a PIL filed in 2015 which was subsequently converted into a suo motu PIL by the Madras High Court, the Bedi report is out in the public domain. It puts to rest all speculation about the miners not having been given a fair hearing – the report carries in detail the miners’ depositions and analyses them unflinchingly. It also details the thorough nature of the probe itself – checking teams and super check teams which worked independently of each other to corroborate beyond a doubt the nature of irregularities in the southern coasts of Tamil Nadu.
Bedi’s report staying under wraps was perhaps a relief to the entire spectrum of politicians in the state. Bedi, as we shall see, opened up a Pandora’s box. Journalists in the state are well aware of the importance and sensitivity of this report – perhaps the reason for no reportage on it.
Because the Gagandeep Singh Bedi report has thrown open to the country the deep rot in the system – both state and centre. It has shone light on a disease that plagues our nation – corruption and collusion by every single government at the state and the centre.
The following report is in bullet points, since the report itself is a complex one and has many technical terms that the layperson is not likely to understand. Interested readers may read the entire report here. Gagandeep Singh Bedi full report
|S no||Key Takeaways from GS Bedi Report|
|1.||Over 1 crore metric tonnes of illegal beach sand mining has taken place in Tamil Nadu.|
|2.||Over 580 acres in the districts of Tirunelveli, Thoothukudy and Kanyakumari illegally mined.|
|3.||Environmental cleareances, CRZ clearances not obtained in most cases.|
|4.||Transport permits given for minerals for which miners do not have permission. Transport permits are permits given by District Collector’s office for transporting minerals from mining site to plant and then from plant to port for export.|
|5.||Transport permits given for larger amounts than mined at one site.|
|6.||Mining has taken place illegally in inter-tidal zone. This could cause shoreline erosion.|
|7.||Permission given by TNPCB defying rules, for plants to be set up in CRZ area and within High Tide Line. TNPCB is the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.|
|8.||Sand dunes removed in many mining areas. This is illegal.|
|9.||Inadequate royalty paid to government.|
|10.||“The Transport Permits are issued in one go without due inspection of pits and reconciliation of accounts” – Bedi Report. This is a clear indication of corruption at the District administration level.|
|11.||“It is surprising to note that such large scale violations which have been unearthed by the Checking and the Super Checking Team could not be observed by the previous technical Teams which inspected the sites from 2nd to 7th May 2013.” – Bedi report. This observation has been made in a number of sites of mining by the Special Team.
This points to collusion and possible corruption by various authorities and departments in allowing illegal beach sand mining to continue for two and a half decades.
|12.||Unsurveyed coastal poromboke lands measuring 114 acres given on lease to a miner but no lease rent collected by the government.|
|13.||In many areas, actual lease permitting mining would cover, for example, 5 acres. But the total area mined would be 10 acres – double the permitted area of mining.|
|14.||Inclusion of minerals such as monazite (atomic mineral) has been made in a number of leases. The Bedi report states that it needs to be ascertained whether the Central government departments have given licence to the miner to mine monazite. Subsequent court proceedings have shown that the Centre has not given any private player permission to mine monazite since it is an issue of national security.|
|15.||Mining plans themselves have been prepared falsely – showing inland areas as being replenishable by waves.|
|16.||In Kanyakumari, mining lease given for 4.06 hectares but environmental clearance given for 168.62 hectares!|
|17.||In Manappadu, Tuticorin: Bulk transport permits issued for mining site in Manappadu but no evidence of any mining; permits may have been used elsewhere.|
|18.||Mouth of Nambiyar river in Tirunelveli blocked due to illegal mining.|
|19.||89.67 acres of illicit mining in government poromboke lands and HR&CE lands and a quantity of 17 lakh metric tonnes removed in Tirunelveli district.|
|20.||Processing plants have put pipes into the sea to draw water.|
The break-up of the amount of illegal mining found by the Bedi Team is given below.
|District||Total no of leases||Illicit mining found in how many leases||Area of illicit mining (in acres)||Quantity of illicit mining (in metric tonnes)|
Maximum number of violations has taken place in Tirunelveli, according to the Gagandeep Singh Bedi report. Below is the break-up of the leases in various villages of Tirunelveli district and the extent and amount of illegal mining as mentioned in the report.
|S No||Name of the village||No. of leases||Details of the lessees||No of leases where illicit mining is reported||Extent of illicit mining (acres)||Quantity of illicitly mined minerals (Metric Tonnes)|
|1||Kuttam||8||All leases belong to Beach Minerals (Sand) Company||8||65.43||24,73,575|
|2||Karaisuthu Uvari||17||14 – Transworld Garnet
3 – VV Mineral
|3||Karaisuthu Pudur||9||7 – VV Mineral
1 – M Ramesh
1 – K Thangaraj
|4||Levinjipuram||4||All leases belong to VV Mineral||4||0.6||6,31,408|
|5||Irukkanthurai||3||All leases belong to VV Mineral||NIL||NIL||NIL|
|7||Chettikulam||2||All leases belong to VV Mineral||2||1.12||12,000|
|8||Vijayapathi||3||All leases belong to VV Mineral||1||0.05||1000|
|9||Thiruvambalapuram||3||All leases belong to VV Mineral||1||26.26||4,81,300|
|10||Thiruvambalapuram, Vijayapathi and Koodankulam||1||VV Mineral||1||13.61||2,21,1498|
|11||Irukkanthurai, Chettikulam and Levinjipuram||1||VV Mineral||NIL||NIL||NIL|
The Background to the Bedi Report is below.
Timeline To The Bedi Report
|06 August 2013||Tuticorin Collector Ashish Kumar submitted a report to State government on illegal mining of beach sand minerals in district. Ashish Kumar was transferred within 8 hours of submitting the report.|
|08 August 2013||Commissioner of Geology and Mining submits Ashish Kumar’s report to the State government; recommends Special Team be formed to investigate.|
|08 August 2013||Chief Minister Jayalalithaa sets up Special Team headed by Gagandeep Singh Bedi to probe into allegations of illegal mining of beach sand minerals in Tuticorin district.
Special Team to comprise of officials from Geology & Mining department, Environment & Forests department, Revenue department.
|17 September 2013||Report on illegal beach sand mining in Thoothukudy submitted by Special Team to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.|
|17 September 2013||Chief Minister Jayalalithaa expands probe by Special Team to four other districts – Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari, Madurai and Trichy.|
|17 September 2013||Mining of beach sand minerals and issuance of transport permits in the state were stopped by the State government.|
What are beach sand minerals?
|Sand on the beaches of the southern coasts of Tamil Nadu contain a mixture of rare earth minerals.|
|Rare earth minerals are garnet, ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene, sillimanite, zircon and monazite.|
|Garnet is used in abrasives, sand blasting and international demand for the mineral is high.|
|Of these, monazite is an atomic mineral – it can be processed to yield thorium, a nuclear fuel.|
|Monazite cannot be mined, processed or exported by private companies.|
|Monazite found during mining of other beach sand minerals must be stored underground as per rules of Department of Atomic Energy.|