Indian diocese fights illegal mining

Government initiative to investigate abuse of Church property welcomed

Indian diocese fights illegal mining
Bellary mining in church property
Francis Rodrigues, Mangalore, India

February 7, 2011

Officials of Bellary diocese have welcomed a directive from the National Minority Commission (NCM) to the Karnataka state government in southern India to set up a committee to investigate illegal mining on Church property. “We are happy and welcome the NCM directive,” Bishop Henry D’Souza of Bellary told on February 5, after media reported about the federal body’s move. The NCM directive “has boosted a campaign we launched last year against illegal mining,” he added. According to Bishop D’Souza, Ranka International Private Limited began mining on 20 acre (8.09 hectare) of diocesan land in January 2010. Although the diocese possesses land records, its property in Ramgad village has no enclosure to mark definite boundaries, he said. He said their campaign has forced the government to stay the mining. “Now the dispute is in the state tribunal,” said the bishop, who stayed on the property for two days last year to assert ownership. Father O. Vincent, who manages the diocesan estates, told today the diocese took up the mater with the NCM after the administration ignored its demand for a survey of the land. Earlier, the forest department staked claim over the disputed land and the mining firm said it had obtained license to do mining on it. The priest said the government appointed a forest official to study the matter who declared the land belonged to the Church. Father Antony Raj, who administers the diocesan funds, said the Church has paid taxes for the land since the British time. The mining firm has extracted at least 100,000 tons of iron ore from the land so far, he added. Father Raj also said the Good Shepherd nuns had given their property on lease to mining firms some years ago, but had to sell it cheaply as the transactions became unmanageable. Bishop D’Souza regretted illegal mining has also taken the Church of South India’s land. He clarified the Church is not against legal mining. “But we condemn the plundering of the Church or anyone’s land for illegal mining,” he said. Related report Priest´s Fight Against Iron-ore Pollution Brings Results In Goa IB13178.1640