Granite mining

Anatomy of a loot

Print edition : March 31, 2017

A granite stockyard near a quarried hill in Keelavalavu near Madurai. Photo: K. Ganesan

U. Sagayam. Photo: G. Moorthy

Granite blocks stored in a mining company on the Madurai-Melur highway. Photo: S. James

Frontline accesses the Sagayam Report on the granite loot in Madurai district in Tamil Nadu, which went on for more than a decade from the mid 1990s. Besides noting the massive revenue loss of more than Rs.1 lakh crore to the government, it records the operations of the mining mafia—the threats, the human sacrifices and its nexus with the bureaucracy in the State.

A 600-ODD-PAGE report on a court-ordered investigation into the loot of granite for more than a decade from the mid 1990s in Tamil Nadu has been with the Madras High Court ever since it was submitted to it in November 2015 by the investigating officer, U. Sagayam, Special Officer/Legal Commissioner, who was appointed by the court. The First Bench of the court, while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) petition on March 3 to make the report public, decided against doing so and gave the State government six weeks to file its response to the report.

The report, which Frontline has accessed and excerpts of which are in its possession, is unsparing in its expose of the mafia involved in the scam that has cost the State exchequer more than Rs.1 lakh crore. The contents of the report have been a matter of speculation ever since it was submitted to the court. Frontline’s detailed perusal of the report found that it brings out the impudent nature of the granite mining operations in Madurai district and the deep involvement of the bureaucratic machinery in them. Sagayam not only records with meticulous care the monetary loss to the exchequer, but also writes in great detail about a sinister side—money laundering by the miners and the involvement in it of government employees, from clerical-level staff to senior officials, including two District Collectors.

The report reveals that human sacrifices were made by miners for black magic rituals. The victims were mostly destitute and mentally challenged persons and a few local residents. M. Sevarkodiyon, a former driver in PRP Granites, one of the mining firms, claimed that these human sacrifices were apart from the animal sacrifice, which, of course, was a routine ritual at the time of operating new quarries. The miners believed they would fetch them a bounty. He claimed that they picked up destitute or mentally retarded persons and orphans from bus stands and railway stations and other public places, mostly abandoned, for the sacrifice, to escape attention.

While going through the voluminous report, one cannot miss Sagayam’s anguish over the brazen involvement of government officials in the massive fraud. He talks about their role in the loot in almost every chapter. He has devoted a chapter each for the issues of money laundering and human sacrifice. He also criticises the role of Tamil Nadu Minerals Limited (TAMIN), a Government of Tamil Nadu undertaking. TAMIN, he says, has been the main facilitator of the loot since the late 1990s. He has sought an inquiry into these aspects.

The report, which includes key findings, conclusions and recommendations, has 66 chapters grouped under eight sections under the following heads: the background and context of the probe, granite reserves and exploitation, illegalities, whistle-blowers, violations, larger issues, institutional apathy, working environment and conclusion. It also has a six-part section that contains annexures, references, a glossary, maps, visuals and video clips.

The net revenue loss to the government, Sagayam points out, is the actual loss caused plus the penalty (Rs.34,304.13 crore for private players and Rs.9,978.99 crore for TAMIN quarries), which is Rs.1,09,437.72 crore. (The total is calculated wrongly in the report.) Sagayam points out that the loss is only an indicative figure and a thorough investigation is needed to arrive at the exact loss (“The mother of all loot”, July 24, 2015).

The Madras High Court, in its order dated September 11, 2014, appointing Sagayam as the Special Officer/Legal Commissioner (S.O./L.C.) observed: “In view of the nature of the illegality alleged and also the fact that in this process even farm lands given to the deprived S.C. and S.T. section of people are stated to be affected by the quarrying and Thiru U. Sagayam, IAS, being the person who filed the initial report in this matter [when he was Madurai Collector in 2011], we consider it appropriate Thiru U. Sagayam as S.O./L.C. to visit and inspect the mines and submit a report to this court in order to satisfy ourselves that action is being taken at the sites in question.”

When Sagayam sought a clarification on the scope of the probe —whether it was restricted to Madurai district alone or it should look at the entire State and whether the probe was only for granite or for all types of mining operations—the court said on November 25, 2014, that “the task at present assigned to the Commissioner is only qua granite mining in Madurai in respect of which he had submitted a report earlier. The question whether the area of scrutiny by the Commissioner is to be expanded or not keeping in mind the larger scope of the petition would only be considered subsequently.”

Sagayam commenced his probe in Madurai on December 3, 2014 (“Removing roadblocks”, Frontline, December 12, 2014) and submitted his report to the First Bench of the Madras High Court on November 23, 2015, after seeking a few extensions to complete it. V. Suresh was the counsel for the Commission. The then First Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana said after receiving the probe report that the State government would take appropriate action.

The granite scam was first brought to the notice of the government on May 19, 2012 in a brief report submitted by Sagayam, as Collector of Madurai district, to the Principal Secretary, Industries Department, Tamil Nadu government. The report stated that the granite mafia had looted resources and cheated the State of income to the tune of Rs.16,338 crore. It was not made public, but when portions of it appeared in the media, the government ordered an inquiry. By then, Sagayam had been transferred. On the basis of this report, K.R. Ramaswamy, alias “Traffic” Ramaswamy, filed a PIL petition in the High Court seeking the directions of the court to appoint Sagayam as Special Officer to inspect quarrying throughout the State of Tamil Nadu. The court granted his plea. Sagayam’s final report, now with the High Court, calls the granite scam “a multidimensional devastation and a gargantuan fraud”. “It could be seen during inspection that prime agricultural lands were ravaged, water bodies destroyed, pathways obstructed, temples desecrated, sites of archaeological importance vandalised, bio-diversity devastated, environment polluted, gullible villagers displaced and so on,” he states.

Money laundering

While the report covers all aspects of the scam, it has a chapter dealing exhaustively with the money laundering that was part of the scam. The question that came up often during the investigation, Sagayam points out, was how the miners were able to bring into the account books the huge amounts of money they were earning from their illegal business, since 70 per cent of the mined granite was exported. “When the various mining parties were not wanting to pay taxes inside the country, it was a moot question as to whether they would disclose the full extent of their earnings, especially, the money earned in foreign currency,” he states in the report.

But as his investigation progressed despite stiff opposition from the mining mafia and the apathetic attitude of officials, he was able to trace the money trail of the miners. The existence of bogus firms and widespread financial fraud pointed to money-laundering activities, a route used by criminals to disguise the illegal origin of their wealth. He points out that the “dirty money” moved across the border to obscure the audit trail, and he expresses the apprehension that it “can affect the interest and exchange rates”.

He says that in the export of the granite, the miners brazenly “use same permits and trucks with the same registration numbers illegally”. (A permit issued for a lorry, with a specific registration number, is used to run several lorries, all of which use the same registration number.) In the ports, the officials of the Department of Customs and Central Excise supported the miners, unlawfully of course, by suppressing the actual number of shipping bills and by under-invoicing. He says that despite his pleas, the Customs Department did not submit details pertaining to granite exports. “This becomes an obvious source for murky foreign exchange violation, triggering a well-planned money-laundering, thus betraying the economic interests of Mother Nation,” the report states.

It was, he says, disheartening to note that officials in the Customs Department and at the ports in Tuticorin, Chennai, Kochi and Mangalore, from where the granite blocks were exported, refused to provide the information that the Commission sought regarding the quantum of granite, the quality, details of foreign exchange remittances, and the pricing details. He further says that no bank in Madurai, barring a few, came forward to part with details of foreign exchange transactions dealing with granite export. “This condition strengthens our stand that the mining lessees had [an] effective hand in the process of money laundering.”

He says the first suspicion of money laundering arose when several bogus firms and shell companies were found to be in existence, a classic technique to evade tax. These firms were started and then wound up within short periods and the bank accounts they opened received some monies, and subsequently the accounts were closed. “The Special Officer/Legal Commissioner during the course of probe could ascertain that there were at least 15 bogus firms operated by the lessees. The mining lessees have resorted to unethical methods on various counts with regard to taxes. They have cheated the government even for meagre amounts of the taxes payable such as property tax and professional tax. The creation of bogus firms does not end with tax evasion alone, it becomes a breeding ground for designed illegalities in various spheres, including money laundering,” he says.

The trails of all these shell firms led to the mining lessees in one way or the other, with links to their operations. The information made available to the investigation team pertained to the year 2012, since the authorities concerned, despite repeated pleas from the Commission, refused to provide details for other years. An examination of the available data shows Trade Based Money Laundering (TBML) was resorted to in 2012 in two ways: purging shipping bills and quoting low values. An analysis of the operations of PRP Exports in 2012 through Tuticorin port reveals that it had transported through a firm a far greater volume of stone blocks than was actually registered with the Department of Customs and Central Excise, Tuticorin.

“The discrepancy [between] the actual stone transported and shown amounts to a huge amount of 7,83,658.02 CBM (Cubic Metres) whose value in Indian Rupees is Rs.38.78 crores. In other words in the official records a huge volume of nearly 7.83 lakh CBM has been purged obviously to evade Customs and Central Excise duties and Foreign Exchange laws,” he points out. He wonders whether the invoice amounts or the consignment values reflect the correct value. The reluctance of banks to part with the transaction details of the miners to the Commission is “indicative of money laundering as very often such transactions are well within the knowledge of bankers,” he notes.

Sagayam, in his report, expresses his apprehensions over the involvement of a few officials in the Customs and Central Excise Department of Tuticorin port and claims that the “integrity of records available in Electronic Data Systems Interface (EDI) of Customs is compromised” to encourage the miners to indulge in TBML. He points out: “It is pertinent to point out that records of selective parties [miners] were inaccessible from the databases of government websites/portals like DGFT, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, (MCA); thus when the current probe team attempted to access the Importer/Exporter Code (IEC), DIN number, CIN number, the same could not be accessed.”

The probe, he claims, establishes prima facie evidence conforming to all the key indicators showing that “money laundering is taking place, including practices like ‘smurfing’, having multiple firms with similar business activities, thereby facilitating routing of money from one firm to another, and other practices which clearly [are] indicating money laundering is taking place in the granite trade”. “The presence of money laundering is indicated from the prima facie evidences satisfying the characteristics listed by Financial Intelligence Unit-India (FIU-IND) and Financial Action Task Force (FATE) an inter governmental organisation for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system,” he says and demands another probe into the granite scam by specialised agencies such as the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Enforcement Directorate.

He points out in his report that under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, some of the key persons who operated the granite firms qualified to be categorised as “Politically Exposed Persons (PEP)”. A thorough probe needs to be done about the role of these people, he urges. He draws attention to the four earlier cases that the Enforcement Directorate registered under the PMLA against miners, including PRP Exports, M/s. Olympus Granites, M/s. Om Granites, C. Panneer ohd and Co and another firm in the name of Rafeek Raja.

Sagayam says in the report that the investigation led him to a scion of a powerful political family in Tamil Nadu. One of the directors of Olympus Granites, a mining firm under the cloud of suspicion, especially when the granite quarrying was heavy, was Durai Dayanidhi, son of former Union Minister for Fertilizers M.K. Alagiri, who is a son of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M. Karunanidhi. Sagayam says Durai Dayanidhi “eminently qualifies to be considered as PEP”.

He explains how his attempts to get information from banks and district-level officials on Durai Dayanidhi’s firm were frustrated. When details were requested, Sagayam points out, Corporation Bank, Madurai, where Olympus had accounts, informed the Commission in writing that his KYC [know your customer] details were not available, though the bank confirmed that he was one of the directors of the firm. Sagayam has asked the Madras High Court to initiate a “specialised probe” into the money laundering by the granite mafia.

In fact, the Enforcement Directorate pursuing the granite scam has “provisionally attached” property worth Rs.528 crore of a few miners under the provisions of the PMLA.

Human sacrifices

Besides looting natural resources with impunity, the mining mafia, the Commission surmises, could also have resorted to gruesome activities such as human sacrifice. Petitions that the Commission received from the general public and former workers in the quarries point to the existence of the practice of sacrificing humans in quarries before quarrying began, for bountiful profits.

Sagayam received many petitions about missing people from local residents and a few from far-off places. Many were still searching for their relatives who had gone missing in the vicinity of Madurai and Melur. “The man-missing cases in and around Madurai registered between 1998 and 2012 need to be probed in detail,” demands a social worker in Melur block. Sagayam, who worked on one such petition concerning a missing local person, believes that there is evidence of this cruel practice.

He spent a night at a remote burial site overseeing the exhumation of the body of a person suspected to have been sacrificed at Chinnamalampatti village. This was basically intended to protect evidence, if any, from being tampered with. The local police machinery was “hell bent to postpone exhumation”, he claims in his report. (Reports of the forensic study of the remains of the victim are yet to be made public.)

Sagayam has named a few police officials, including the then Melur Additional District Superintendent of Police (ADSP) Mariappan and Keezhavalavu Sub-Inspector Ayyanar, for their “highhanded behaviour”. The report says the police served the interest of mining lessees, going to the extent of trying to thwart a court-monitored inquiry into as heinous a crime as human sacrifice. “It is also a matter of grave concern that the Sub Inspector concerned did not act individually but had the backing and support of higher-level police officers, including Mariappan, ADSP, and Vijeyendra Bidari, the then SP [Superintendent of Police], Madurai Rural. The incidences of human sacrifice and the resistance of the police to the exhumation clearly reveal [that] the money power of the mining lessees emboldened them to resort to such grave crimes confident that the police machinery would come to their aid,” he says.

Officials’ apathy

Sagayam says that Anshul Mishra, who succeeded him as Madurai Collector, was “acting positively” on his first report to the government [when he was Madurai Collector] on the scam. Mishra sent a report to the government seeking suspension of the quarrying operations of 77 granite quarries, and the government obliged. Besides, proposals were sent to cancel the lease of 48 non-operative quarries, as a result of which 39 licences were cancelled. Writ petitions seeking a stay on the suspension of the licences were dismissed by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. Subsequently, 36 mining lessees filed individual special leave petitions (SLPs) before the Supreme Court, which were also dismissed. The apex court ordered that “the district administration shall complete the proceedings within two months to compute the total loss to the government by each mine and to recover the same from individual mining lessees”.

The Supreme Court ordered that the entire proceedings [of investigation and action against the erring miners] be completed within two months and that the total loss to the government from each mine be computed and the same be recovered from the individual mining lessees. These orders were passed in September 2015. “But despite these orders, the Madurai District administration is yet to complete the proceedings and recover the monetary loss from the mining lessees. They have just restricted the proceedings to merely summoning the lessees and conducting enquiries,” Sagayam points out in his report.

But the then Superintendent of Police (S.P.) of Madurai Rural, V. Balakrishnan, he says, did not hesitate to launch prosecution against the offenders, including the filing of first information reports (FIRs) against a number of erring mining lessees. “The action was swift and effective. Ninety-eight FIRs were registered in 2012-13 against the illegal quarrying of granite and damage of government porombok lands (government wastelands).”

Forty-four criminal cases were registered on the basis of petitions received by the Legal Commissioner. The Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption conducted searches at the residences of 34 officials. Two FIRs were registered against two former Madurai Collectors, besides the Deputy Director, Department of Geology and Mining, Madurai, and others for offences punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act. By then the S.P. and the Collector had been transferred. “However the alacrity with which the government acted immediately after the media exposure [of his first report] slowly dissipated. Investigations were insincere and the approach was to allow the whole issue to die a natural death,” he notes. Thereafter, “it is felt that the local police are not comfortable with the ongoing inquiry by the Legal Commissioner for reasons best known to them,” he says.

Subversion of law

About the violations in the processing of mining applications, patent illegalities and the deliberate subversion of law, he says: “A thorough perusal and examination of the records and files received from the Department of Mines revealed clearly that the genesis of illegality begins from the first stage of filing and processing of mining applications itself. There are obvious cases of designed suppression of information related to land. The widespread nature of such illegalities indicated that such subversion of law occurred only with the tacit and open support and collusion of different levels of the Revenue Department and bureaucracy who operated with a sense of impunity confident that they will never get caught.”

“It is fairly obvious that such deliberate and conscious observation of law and procedure at the level of the revenue officials because of a well oiled system of monetary and material patronage; in other words the existence of a network of corrupt officials, dishonest elected local body leaders like panchayat presidents and unscrupulous mining lessees ensured that no action was ever taken against the mining interests”. Their “deceptive and stoic silence,” he claims, emboldened the lessees to indulge in more and more dubious and nefarious activities.

Across all the 175 mining plants studied, Sagayam says, it is shown uniformly that in most cases, if not all, the Registered Qualified Person [RQP; under Rule 22(c) of The Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, the RQP prepares mining plans, including environmental management plans], who alone is legally authorised to prepare mining plans to be submitted to the authorities to secure granite mining permits, intentionally suppressed facts such as presence of hamlets, waterbodies, and sites of archaeological importance in the areas proposed to be mined during the process of preparing the mining plan, which is the basis for obtaining mining leases.

Sagayam comes down heavily on officials’ involvement in the granite loot in his report. In fact, he spent a lot of time collecting material evidence to identify the officials and their roles in the loot. The report states: “Several such obvious procedural violations could be noticed. Thus it could be observed clearly there was wilful and widespread subversion of all legal procedures and marked deviation from the act and rules committed by officials of different departments, mining experts, RQPs, and others at every stage in the process of mining granite in Madurai district.” At one point in the report, he says a Madurai Collector went to the extent of exerting pressure on the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to issue a no-objection certificate (NOC) to a miner to quarry a hill notified as archeologically important.

He claims that the miners manipulated records and forced landowners to sell vast tracts of lands. “In fact PRP Exports had purchased lands to the extent of 20,000 acres [8,000 hectares] in Madurai and Theni districts in overt and brazen violation of the Tamil Nadu Land Reforms (Fixation of Ceiling on Land) Act, 1961. Such a vast extent of land could be purchased by the mining lessees presumably on account of the substantial money they could gain by way of illicit granite mining,” he contends.

Before the advent of the modern-day diamond wire saw cutting, which can cut even a boulder 200 feet long into two equal halves like it was a loaf of bread, the miners used explosives to quarry the mines. This caused tremors in the vicinity, and houses in nearby habitations developed cracks. When all their efforts to stop the quarrying failed, the people in the area approached the district administration and the police for reprieve, both of whom, however, “turned a blind eye” to their pleas.

The villagers had no option but to sell their houses at the throwaway prices offered by the miners. “The villagers, the sons of soil had no other option but to give away their homes and move to unknown destination leaving their home land villages in which they had lived, loved and laughed with their loved ones for several decades. Such instances of mass displacement or exodus could be witnessed at T. Guntankal, Sivalingam, Rengasamipuram and E. Malampatti.” (During a visit to the area, this correspondent noted that these villages in and around Melur and falling in the core of the mining area wore the look of a Wild West landscape—devoid of any life.)

Mute spectators

Taking up the issues of illegal encroachment and destruction of waterbodies, Sagayam criticises officials of the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Department of Revenue for not being vigilant against these activities of the miners. “They chose to remain silent and mute spectators and they did not take any action to pull up the errant mining lessees. Their deceptive and stoic silence emboldened the mining lessees to indulge in more and more dubious and nefarious activities as they faced no hindrance from any quarters what so ever,” he says.

In all the cases, mining started as a perfectly legal endeavour but gradually transformed into a major violation and transgression of the law of the land. The officialdom served the interest of the mining lessees and, as a result, violations became the norm. Sagayam says he witnessed the havoc caused to agricultural lands, devastated waterbodies, usurped panchami land, village pathways that had been destroyed, vandalised archaeological sites, all of which disturbed the biodiversity of the area and caused environmental pollution. Besides, the mining-related activities decimated livestock, resulted in the desecration of temples of village deities, displaced gullible villagers, and threw the agrarian economy into disarray.

“This is besides causing sizable and substantial fiscal loss to the tune of Rs.62,890.91 crores to the government exchequer by way of illicit mining and transportation. While the fiscal loss is measurable, the social, economic and ecological loss caused is immeasurable and irreversible,” he points out. He says that without the support of the official machinery a school dropout [referring obviously to P.R. Palanisamy, owner of PRP Granites and PRP Exports] “cannot build such a giant granite empire”. He says, in the report, that political executives could have stopped such grave irregularities and sizable fiscal loss in the mining arena. “There was a total system failure that was the root cause of all,” he says.

Similarly, at many renowned archaeological sites in Thiruvathavur, Keelaitur, Keezhavalavu and Arittipatti, Jaina caves, rock beds and Tamil Brahmi inscriptions of the 2nd century BCE were destroyed by the reckless mining despite appeals by the Superintending Archaeologist, ASI, to the Madurai district administration to stop the quarrying. Even a protected site at Keezhavalavu was not spared. In fact, the site got protection later after the intervention of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. Officials of the Department of Geology and Mining, Sagayam claims, did not carry out field inspection before recommending the grant of mining lease (“History vandalised”, Frontline, July 17, 2009).

Sagayam minces no words when he highlights the “shady dealings” resorted to by TAMIN. He points out that TAMIN’s quarries house the best quality granite that would fetch high prices. But it introduced the peculiar system of “Raising Agency” in 1984 and “Raising cum Sale Agency” in 1998 for quarrying and sale of granites in government porombok lands. By adopting this system, private players were indirectly allowed to quarry granite on government land. (A more or less similar system is being followed to mine river sand today in Tamil Nadu.)

Sagayam notes that there is no special legal provision for TAMIN to make such agreements with private granite firms. Armed with a resolution passed in its 134th Board meeting held on December 28, 1998, favouring the introduction of the aforesaid system of “Raising cum Sale Agency”, TAMIN entered into agreements with several agents. The purpose of introducing this system was to utilise the services of private players as TAMIN did not have the logistics and manpower to mine and market granite. But later this system was misused by the private players, with the connivance of the officials concerned. It can be seen from the data provided by TAMIN that the annual turnover of the company drastically fell after the introduction of this system, which led to a huge loss of minerals to the State and seigniorage to the government.

It is strange that many miners who were given the Raising Agency licences in 1998 are still holding them and continuing as mining agencies. “The rationale and motive for using such a system,” Sagayam notes, “is clandestine as the market for granite was buoyant as could be seen from the profits made by private companies.” Under this system, the private operators are the real operators of quarries in porombok lands without paying any lease amount, royalty and stamp duty to the state. TAMIN could have quarried and marketed the granite on its own and generated massive revenue, but it failed to do so just to appease the interests of the private players. In addition, TAMIN also resorted to illegal mining, besides obtaining transport permits for much lesser amounts of granite than the actual amount quarried.

The loss caused to the government exchequer by TAMIN on account of illegal mining activities, according to Sagayam’s estimate, is to the tune of Rs.5,507.53 crore. Strangely, this sizable amount does not get reflected in the annual turnover of TAMIN. This mammoth loss was caused by just four quarries in Madurai district in a relatively short span of time. “An agency of the government, which otherwise should be trend setter by strictly adhering to the rules in vogue has miserably failed to live up to the standard. Such unprecedented scale of monetary loss could not have occurred without the active connivance of the administrative executives,” he says.

He urges that the officials responsible and their nexus with uncouth politicians, right from the inception of TAMIN, should be probed thoroughly to ascertain the facts pertaining to the undervaluation of granite blocks and the reasons for the introduction of the Raising cum Sale Agency concept. The executive hierarchy in TAMIN, he alleges, was incompetent to carry out mining scientifically and handle the exports to maximise profit. In fact, TAMIN “underplayed its product by mentioning less recovery ratio to benefit the private players in the granite mining area,” he charges.

Recommendations

Sagayam recommends that the Madras High Court constitute a Special Investigation Multi-disciplinary Team of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to undertake a comprehensive probe into the vast depredation of a common resource such as granite and the massive profit made by the miners, who were aided and abetted by officials across the entire bureaucratic hierarchy. He says a special court to try all granite cases should be formed, a Lok Ayukta established, and TAMIN developed on the model of Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC).

He also suggests that the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) be empowered to maintain a 24x7 Central Data Centre, collecting details relating to transactions associated with exports and imports of all departments dealing with the granite industry.

The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, and The Tamil Nadu Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 1959, should be replaced by a new law for conservation and sustainable development, not extraction alone. The State should sell the 1,62,000 granite blocks seized in 2012, he says.

Then comes an important facet of the entire probe. He insists that only upright officers with unblemished track record should be posted as Collectors and S.Ps of Madurai and other mineral-rich districts of the State.

The fiscal loss because of illicit mining is just indicative, and a thorough investigation is needed to arrive at the exact loss caused to the state. All mining, including that of river sand, granite, and beach sand, should be done through TAMIN. The money and penalties collected from the miners should be utilised to rejuvenate the ruined villages and restore people’s livelihoods.

It is clear that for his perseverance in this investigation, Sagayam has drawn inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi.

He quotes the Father of the Nation in this report: “The earth, the air, the land and the water are not an inheritance from our forefathers but on loan from our children. So we have to hand over to them at least as it was handed over to us.”

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