Justice Shah concerned over mines workers

Keonjhar: Voicing concern over lack of basic amenities in mineral rich Keonjhar district of Odisha, Shah Commission today asked mine owners to earmark funds to strengthen health services, roads and check pollution in the region. "While earning sufficiently mine owners should be careful about health hazards and look after medical facilities for local people," Justice M B Shah, who heads the commission, told reporters here after a public hearing in course of its probe into illegal mining activities.

The state government would be advised to ask mine owners to contribute towards providing basic amenities to the people and strengthening health and educational facilities in the the region, he said winding up the panel`s four-day visit to the district.

The former Supreme Court judge said those mines functioning legally would be allowed to continue operations and the commission in its report would suggest mine owners to earmark a portion of their earnings for the development of the district. Expressing concern over increasing pollution in several areas of the district, Justice Shah said adequate care should be taken by mine owners not to pollute water, air and environment.

Steps would also be taken to streamline the manner in which Indian Bureau of Mines was giving approval for mining activities, he said after hearing people from different spheres of life and NGOs. While the Commission`s hearing was on at the collectorate, a demonstration was staged outside by workers affiliated to AITUC demanding resumption of work in mines which had been shut as it was causing loss of job for labourers.

Justice Shah said the people could send their views to the district collector who would display them in the website. The commission had also expressed displeasure over the lack of enforcement of mining rules by IBM which was entrusted to control and regulate the production in specific mines. During the hearing, noted social activist and Padmashri Tulasi Munda highlighted the problems being faced by farmers and labourers in the mineral rich area.

Several participants expressed concern over closure of several mines in the past five months saying it had led to loss of job among over one lakh labourers. Elaborate security arrangements were made during the hearing by the commision, which visited over half a dozen major mines in the district.