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Bellary gropes for way back to.....

Bellary gropes for way back to life; mining ban leaves lakhs without livelihood

Adiappa, a truck mechanic, admits to having picked up a few habits in the heydays. But says he will adapt to the changed circumstances . With his trucks now carrying commodities of lesser value, he has to cut down his drinking from eight times a month to once a week. "God provides for everyone to fend for their daily bread, these guys were too greedy." That was his worldly-wise summary of the situation in Karnataka's Bellary, the iron ore-rich district about 300 km from Bangalore , where mining operations have come to a halt after a Supreme Court order. The ban on mining in the area has rendered lakhs of people jobless.
Financiers have started seizing trucks whose owners are unable to repay loans with no ore to be carried, miners are retrenching staff and small industries dependent on mining activity are being forced to shut shop. Congress Rajya Sabha MP and an old-time miner, Anil H Lad, let go his workforce of 700, including foremen, mining mates and security staff, at VSL. "How can I afford to pay them? At least they can find work elsewhere. The ban's harsh but let people realise who is really responsible for this," he says. The rise and fall of the district has been rather dramatic.
The mining boom, rising from China's demand for iron ore fines in 2003, swept through the region like a whirlwind, turning the quiet and sleepy town into a bustling business hub. Anyone who didn't already have a lease turned traders or transporters, financiers embraced them, and individuals even started digging their own backyards - a punishable offence . The Bellary-Hubli-Karwar roads would be jammed with 2,000-3 ,000 trucks, making it impossible to travel at nights. New roads would last just two months. Caught in the excitement of fame and fortune, Bellary was oblivious to its eroding systems .
"This is a bad time for Bellary, mining has been happening here since last fifty years. It's not like miners dug out entire mountains as is being made out. It was an administrative failure, whose blame I can say, as a citizen, possibly is to be shared by even those in Bangalore," says a local BJP politician. What was happening was obvious to all, including 15-yearold Vikas from DAV Jindal Vidya Mandir. But for being a selfconfessed "big Santosh Hegde fan" , Vikas is like any other teenager - pierced ear, oversized T-shirt , Facebook introductions and an obsession with car models. His well-speltout pros and cons of the ban on mining have not been defined by classroom debates alone but personal observations.

"I have seen this policeman here, who would ride a bike, has in two years made so much money he's bought a Maruti Swift and a Tata Sumo Victa," he says. In the heydays, boys not much older than him, provided with a bike, a cell and generous pocket money are said to have policed the roads linking Sandur, Bellary and Hospet. "We used to talk about the violence and crime we heard about on TV in AP and UP," says another trader in Hospet, who is still smarting from the Bellary 'Republic' tag in the Lokayukta report. He's had to flee town in the past and would rather not be targeted again. Even after ban and the dropping of the Bellary Reddys from the cabinet, miners won't openly speak up.

 
     
 
   
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