Miners Protest for Free Trade

City State

Mining dependents protest at Freedom Park for preference of Karnataka iron ore over imports.

By Priyanka D

Bangalore, March 26, 2019: Mining dependents from Bellary, Hospet and Chitradurga districts of Karnataka join in a protest regarding free trade, to ensure regular business for truckers, small scale industries and lakhs of other mining dependents.

In 2013, mining was declared legal by the Supreme Court but with several restrictions. Most steel companies use iron ore from other countries and not from Karnataka. Truck drivers are facing unemployment because nobody in the state is supplying it. Karnataka doesn’t allow the export of any iron ore.

Mining dependents have no employment because of these restrictions by the government. As many as 75 percent of these workers are dependent solely on mining, the other 25 percent earn through agricultural practices.

The dependents are protesting for free trade of iron ore and preference of local ore over imports. Other states have no restrictions as Karnataka has. The mining dependents need permission from the forest department and the state government to export iron ore.

One of the other restrictions in Karnataka includes the production cap that is limited to 3,500,000 metric tonnes, while the other states have a production cap at one billion metric tonnes. The production cap needs to be increased.

Rajkumara S., the spokesperson for Karnataka Gani Avalambithara Vedike (KGAV), said that he would fast if the demands are not fulfilled. Murugesh BSV, a worker from Earthmovers enterprise says, “More than 300 trucks are lying still from the three districts. They have the material but little to no supply and no buyers – due to the restrictions. They have incurred a loss of Rs. 2,500,000 in one month.”

Lokesh, the PR of the protest, said that around 75 percent of the population from the three districts is affected by the restrictions set by the state government and the forest department.

Sirajuddin, a truck driver from Chitradurga said, “We want the government to lift the restrictions and stop importing iron ore from foreign countries like Germany and Australia. We want our jobs so that we can earn money to afford a day’s meal.”

M. Mehboob Basha, one of the protestors, said that he hired a truck but now can’t pay for it as the supply has gone down. He drives an auto to earn a livelihood. People are migrating for work because employment is negligible in Hospet, Karnataka.

The 6000 mining dependents shouted slogans to gather the attention of the authorities. The government haven’t responded to the protest yet.