New Delhi: The mining operations in Karnataka's Bellary district have stopped after a Supreme Court order but nearly 17 lakh workers have been left jobless as a result. They say their cultivable land has become infertile and jobless farmers are dependent on a pittance.
Mountains being blasted, iron ore furiously dug up - Bellary district accounted for 20 per cent of India's iron ore. But now instead of the chaos there is utter silence.
Bellary without, mining, without money and without the mafia is a different place. After the Supreme Court's blanket ban on mining, nearly 17 lakh people in the district are contemplating their future.
Workers are the first to feel the heat. The protest march by the truck drivers association in Bellary says it all. There are nearly 30,000 trucks in Bellary district alone employing almost 50,000 people, with no iron ore to transport and with vehicle loans to pay they are desperate and angry.
"Drivers, truck owners, labourers, nearly three lakh people have no work, we will all be in poverty soon. Our demand is that the Supreme Court should punish the guilty. The miners should be allowed to work," said Raju, Karignur Truck Drivers Association.
The ban has also created major social upheavals in Bellary district. In Karagnur village, it's the men that look after the children because the women are busy searching for jobs. With the mines closed, the men in the village are finding it difficult to find other jobs. Days are now spent arguing over traditional board games.
"We'll all be in poverty soon, there is no work for us for the past few weeks, I have a loan to pay for my truck and with no work, I think I'll lose my truck very soon," said Lakshmanan, Truck Driver, Karignur Village, Bellary District.
But the mine owners like Rahul Baldota of MSPL, the biggest private mining company in Bellary are blaming the Reddy brothers for the situation.
"Out of our total area almost 60 per cent we have rehabilitated and we have planted 18 lakh trees. Now you may see someone in the industry who has looted everything but you have the other side also. You need to keep both in perspective," said Rahul Baldota, Executive Director, MSPL.
For the people of Karignur village, if the ban on illegal mining continues then they will have no other option but to leave everything behind and migrate to bigger cities like Bangalore in search of a livelihood and this is the reason why they want the Supreme Court to reconsider the decision and only punish the guilty and allow the clean miners to operate.