Express News Service
ONGOLE: With vigilance officials cracking down on granite quarries in the district by conducting a series of inspections, the managements of various mining companies are worried about their future.
The officials, who have started raiding the companies to curb illegal mining, are likely to go ahead with their campaign for a few more days.
Owners of some granite companies allege that the raids are politically motivated and the government, as well as a few officials of the department, are targeting only a few mining companies. They contend that the vigilance officials are raiding select companies belonging to TDP leaders, at the behest of the State government.
Refuting their claim, the vigilance officials said the raids are being conducted as per the rules and regulations and there is no political pressure on them.
There are more than 100 granite mining companies in operation near Cheemakurthi (mandal headquarter) and Lakshmipuram and Ramateertham hills. The Galaxy variety of granite stone in the mines near Cheemakurthi is recognised as the one and only supreme variety in the world and it has good demand in the international market.
Export business turnover reportedly exceeds around `1,000-crore mark and the granite companies in Cheemakurthi are paying around more than `100 crore as royalty to the government every year. As the demand for Galaxy variety of granite is very high, most of the companies are facing charges of excess mining, doing unauthorised trading and illegal transportation of goods.
As part of their inspections, vigilance officials are questioning the company owners about the size, weight, measurements and sales price of the granite blocks, transport permissions, way-bill particulars, lease particulars, No Objection Certificates (NOCs) previous and present tax payment particulars, putting granite company owners on the tenterhooks. With this, some of them have already already downed shutters, fearing raids.
According to information available in the Vigilance department, the raids were earlier conducted during the financial year 2013-14 and in 2017.
Rajani, Prakasam District Vigilance Officer told TNIE, “We have taken the support of other district vigilance staff to conduct simultaneous raids at various granite companies situated in the Cheemakurthi area. The initiative has been taken by the department and there is no pressure on us from any quarter. As there are around 100 granite companies, it will take three days to complete inspection of each company. The current series of raids will continue until all granite companies are inspected. It may take more than 20-25 days and we will reveal all our findings soon.”