The second explosion in two separate mines in less than a month’s time has led to a war of words between the opposition Congress, JD(S) and the ruling BJP over patronising illegal mining in Karnataka.
In the wee hours of Tuesday, five persons were killed in a mine blast in the Hirenagavalli hamlet in Chikkaballapur district in Karnataka, 86 km from Bengaluru.
The tragedy struck just a month after a similar mishap was reported from Shivamogga, the home district of Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, where six labourers had died in a quarry site due to an accidental explosion of a similar nature.
Launching a scathing attack on the ruling BJP in a series of tweets, leader of the opposition Siddaramaiah alleged that there is a direct link between illegal quarrying activities in the state and the miners in Andhra Pradesh.
“Everyone from the Vidhana Soudha to the district level is involved in this. Didn’t the illegal mining in Chikkaballapur catch the attention of the district in-charge minister (Karnataka Health Minister K. Sudhakar) so far,” he questioned.
The Congress leader further said that there are over 2,000 unauthorised crushers and quarries in Karnataka. “The Chief Minister must immediately release the a list containing these and take steps to shut them down,” Siddaramaiah tweeted.
He further said that the occurrence of the Chikkaballapur explosion during the same month as the Shivamogga gelatine explosion is a testimony to the state government’s inaction, irresponsibility, and involvement in illegal corruption. “Who is the Chief Minister of Karnataka protecting? The people or the corrupt,” he asked.
Janata Dal (S) leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy said that the ruling BJP did not have any commitment to protect the interests of the state, instead it is neck deep in corruption.
“Illegal mining is just an extended version of this. Be it Chikkaballapur or Shivamogga, these cases should not be seen just as isolated cases. In my opinion, such (illegal mining) cases will keep getting reported. The BJP government in Karnataka only knows to make statements, but it never acts on its own statements,” he said.
Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President D.K. Shivakumar said that the fact that the state government, which spoke about regulating illegal mining, has not worked in this regard is apparent with the occurrence of this tragedy.
“BJP’s strong worded statements about taking strict action against the accused mean nothing. The ministers issuing such statements look like jokers. The loss of five innocent lives at Chikkaballapur is a case in point,” he said.
Meanwhile, Karnataka Health Minister K. Sudhakar termed the blast as a highly condemnable act, saying the matter has been discussed with Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa.
“The blast took place while they were trying to shift illegally stored gelatin fearing raid from the officials. Public representatives being in a responsible position should get the facts right before they make allegations on such sensitive issues,” he said.
He added that it is a moral obligation of all to keep politics away from the grief-stricken homes. “I have never supported any illegal activities in my life,” he asserted.