The Reddy brothers of Karnataka should be given the same treatment that both Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi were given by the people when they were both sent back home. S R Hiremath of the Samaj Parivartana Samudaya which has been battling the issue of illegal mining the most rampant activity in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh says that there is very little one can expect from any government in Karnataka regarding this issue.
I however feel that with the right intervention of the authorities and the Supreme Court of India, the days of the Reddy brothers are numbered. In this interview, Hiremath says that they have ample documents on hand and have all been submitted to the Supreme Court and if acted upon then it would surely bring about the end of illegal mining in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Tell us about the litigation.
We have filed a public interest litigation through our senior advocate Prashanth Bhushan way back in the year 2009. Along with the PIL we have clubbed reports of the Lokayukta along with various other documents.
What have you sought in this PIL?
In this 1274 page petition that we have filed, we want action against illegal mining which the governments are unable to take. The whole idea is to bring about some control to illegal mining. The Karnataka government instead of controlling it is only helping the rise of illegal mining. Moreover there are so many reports which nail these persons involved in illegal mining but the government and its officials ensure that no action is taken.
There is already a Lokayukta report on the issue. What would be your role in the middle of all this?
The Lokayukta report nails many persons, but unfortunately has not been implemented. Our job would be to bring the executive before the judiciary in order to make them work, which unfortunately they have not been doing so far.
What is the status of the PIL in the Supreme Court?
The court has issued a directive to the Central Empowerment Committee to prepare a report on illegal mining.
There appears to be a delay in the proceedings before the Supreme Court.
When we filed the PIL, Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan headed the forest Bench. We wanted to wait for his retirement and then move the matter. We finally did it when Justice Kapadia took over.
Why were you waiting for the retirement of Justice Balakrishnan?
I would not want to mention the obvious reasons for that.
There have been many hearings before the CEC. What have you sought from them?
We have sought the cancellation of the mining leases belonging to the Reddys. We made a 499 page submission to this effect.
You speak of proof against the Reddy brothers. Can you share some of them with us?
We have put together a map which shows that the Reddy brothers encroached into the Forest area of Bellary. They have also destroyed a temple in the same area due to their greed to mine some more. The CEC was impressed with this and they had recommended
cancellation of the lease.
Speaking about official apathy, can you point out an instance please?
I had visited the Ramgad village in Sandur Taluk, Bellary. There is a Ram Malai block here where the mining is rampant. I had met with the forest department officials. A month later I met with the additional Principal Conservator of Forests regarding the same. However he refused to go ahead with this work and said he would speak with the conservator. Despite reminding him that the conservator was not doing anything, he still did not react.
Why do you think this is the case?
We all know who are the most powerful people in Bellary. The government has come to a grinding halt in Bellary and the officers are all hand picked. The CEC however visited these areas which we have been speaking about and later there was a presentation at the Vidhan Soudha in Bangalore. The presentation by the government of Karnataka was a very general one speaking about what they were doing to control illegal mining. However when they were asked for specific instances, they did cut a real sorry figure.
Could you be more specific about the case against the Reddy brothers?
I spoke about the Ramgad area. We have seen a company called Park Line operate from there. Had we not gone there they would have broken down a Rama temple over there to further their mining greed. These Reddy brothers have been saying that they have no mining in Karnataka. We have documents showing how Janardhan Reddy and his wife were brought in as partners into the Associated Mining Company which operates in Karnataka. The mining by them is rampant in the Ramgad area which has 220 million tones of rich iron ore. In addition to this we have submitted documents which speak about their complex financial maneuvering which they did with the Black Gold mines in Karnataka. We have submitted the lease deed of the Associated Mining Company as well. Further to this we have also submitted details regarding the manner in which they ship ore at very low costs in order to dodge tax when in reality the shipment reaches elsewhere are a very high price.
Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa says he is serious about stopping illegal mining. Your thoughts on that.
The CM has more statements than political will. That is all I have to say.
When people speak of mining, they associate the BJP with it. Don’t you think all other parties too have their share of interest?
As I have studied for the last few years there are mining sharks in every party. S M Krishna, Dharam Singh, H D Kumaraswamy and B S Yeddyurappa all have got support from illegal mining. I feel all these persons must be held accountable. However the reason why the Reddy brothers get associated everytime is because they have taken it to a whole new level.
I have been wanting to ask you about the Sushma Swaraj link to the mining lobby in Karnataka.
The association between Sushma and the Reddy brothers goes a long way back when she contested the polls against Sonia Gandhi. I would not be able to say what her interests in mining is, but what I hear is that she is the one who suggested to the Reddy brothers to enter into mining. I must also add that she has double standards.
This is an inter state menace and even Andhra Pradesh is involved. Do you see that government to be more receptive to your demands?
After the death of Dr YSR, the Reddys here lost all support from AP. Today I can say some right noises are being made in AP. AP will at least act. They may not be perfect, but today the officers are far more assertive and have been giving better reports. In Karnataka I have no hope. Don’t forget Yeddyurappa who had transferred some corrupt officials out of Bellary had to reinstate them when the Reddy brothers threatened to withdraw support.
Do you see the issue ever being resolved?
Yes I think it would be sorted out. I feel that their days are numbered. The people should do the same thing to the Reddys what they did to Indira and Sanjay Gandhi post emergency. That day is not too far according to me and I hope the officials act in a better manner when dealing with this problem.