The great Isaac Newton said, “If I could look beyond it is by standing on the shoulders of the giant.” To bring down the powerful mining lobby in Karnataka which looted the state while abusing power shamelessly was no ordinary task. It was the various reports and the petitions filed before the Supreme Court of India by S R Hiremath which finally brought the ones involved in the multimillion crore mining scam to justice.
The 66 year old Hiremath, an engineering graduate who was working in the United States of America returned to India in the year 1979. He has been an activist since the past 30 years and is the founder of the Samaja Parivarthana Samudaya (SPS) in Dharwad in 1984. It was the petitions filed by him that put former Chief Minister of Karnataka, B S Yeddyurappa in a spot of bother as a result of which the Central Bureau of Investigation started to probe his case. The gross misuse of power in Karnataka is only second to the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi, says Hiremath. Hiremath says in this interview with rediff.com that illegal mining is a criminality which was started under the Congress regime of S M Krishna thanks to his then cabinet minister, D K Shivakumar and this is a fact we plan on exposing with enough evidence in the month of August before the Supreme Court of India.
Are you satisfied with the way things have turned out. Reddy is in jail and Yeddyurappa is mired in a CBI probe for illegal mining.
I came back here from the United States many years back so that I took take up various issues and lead a responsible life. The fight has been tough the path very hard, but yes I am satisfied today although there is a lot more work remaining.
Bellary had its own constitution and has been named as the Republic of Bellary. Were you under threat when you were going about doing your work on illegal mining?
It is kind of surprising even for me that there were hardly any threats. The Reddy brothers are very rough and murderous people in some ways. It is surprising that as of today there have been no threat call made to me or any of my other friends working with me from the Reddy brothers. There are both men and women working in the field on this issue and they have not been threatened. However there was one threat call which was made to a friend of mine from the supporters of B S Yeddyurappa. I feel this may have to do with the fact that we are committed to development of the rural folk and we have conducted ourselves in a proper manner which is probably the reason why we have not been threatened.
How difficult was it to deal with this issue considering the money involved was obscene?
I would not say it was one bit easy. It required a lot of ground work. What I noticed is that after the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi where the press was muscled and people were sent to jail without a trial, Karnataka came only second to the gross misuse of power. The previous generations have given their lives for freedom and it is our duty to preserve it. What I have realized is that fear and democracy can never go hand in hand. Illegal mining commenced with D K Shivakumar under S M Krishna and then continued with Gali Janardhan Reddy under B S Yeddyurappa. This was a challenge to expose all this and it was staring into our face. This was a challenge and we decided to take it up. We may or may not reach a logical conclusion, but we will keep trying.
Has illegal mining come to a halt today?
Illegal mining as far as I know has come to a grinding halt barring some unusual circumstances. This is only thanks to the Central Empowerment Committee and the Supreme Court of India. More importantly the manner in which the orders were implemented were also commendable. Reddy’s administration was disabled and mining was stopped. It was necessary that mining was banned in Karnataka in order for the agencies to probe it properly. The CEC had in fact stated that it would not be wise to ban mining, but we insisted that it be done in order to curb further illegalities and investigate properly.
There is always this allegation that B S Yeddyurappa got caught while S M Krishna managed to get away. What are your thoughts about this?
Although Yeddyurappa and Krishna represent two different worlds there is hardly any difference in what went on during their respective regimes. It was during Krishna’s regime that the criminality of illegal mining started under D K Shivakumar. There was total misuse and abuse of power. This was continued during the B S Yeddyurappa regime.
Despite you saying this why has Krishna gotten away?
He has not. You should understand that it is important that all the evidence has to be meticulously brought in together. What has been happening against the Krishna regime is that people are merely throwing in the charges and that is good enough in a court of law. When there is no proper evidence there is no point in going before the court. I personally do not venture into something unless I have impeccable evidence. At the time we went to court there was no proper evidence against Congressman D K Shivakumar who was a big player in the Krishna government.
So, are they let off the hook or are you planning on doing something about it?
Wait until July. We have over the last seven months collected a lot of material against D K Shivakumar. There is now evidence against Shivakumar and we will go ahead and file it. You can be rest assured that we shall spare none involved in this. We did not want to go before the court, merely file charges and get the petition thrown out. Remember when one goes before the court seeking justice, the onus is on us to give evidence and that is what we are doing. We have no personal hatred against anyone, be it Yeddyurappa or Krishna. In our petitions in July we plan on combing both the Krishna and Dharam Singh regimes of the Congress. Dharam Singh did nothing but continued to support the criminal acts committed by the earlier regime of Krishna. And yes before you ask, let me also tell you that the cases of illegal mining during the regime of H D Kumaraswamy are also being taken up. We do not want to cut a sorry figure before the court when we take up these cases. We will deal with them exactly in the manner in which we dealt with the cases against Yeddyurappa and his ministers. This kind of criminality has to be dealt with a firm hand or else it will become a banana republic.
Despite all this Janardhan Reddy tried to bribe a judge in Andhra Pradesh. The illegalities may have come down, but why hasn’t the mind set changed?
That is a very good point that you raise. We have submitted many a document before the court and these do reveal the modus operandi of the illegal mining community. This poses a great threat and threatens to break down the rule of law. We have often said that the major cause for the break down is the mind set that these people have. They thought and continue to think that everything is purchasable and this will change very soon. Our future admissions before the Supreme Court would be on these aspects and we also plan on bringing in the names of 40 prominent traders and also the manner in which they misused the system. This will have to change or else you will continue to have the likes of the Lads and the Shivkumars from the Congress leading a protest against illegal mining, which according to me is the biggest joke.
The Lokayukta report on illegal mining was virtually thrown out by the High Court, while the Supreme Court whole heatedly acted on the one you submitted on the subject of illegal mining. Why is this the case?
I have always believed in Newton’s theory that if I could look beyond it is by standing on the shoulder of the giant. The more important thing is that we need to bring in justice. In the past three decades I have seen many reports. But let me tell you that the reports of Justice Santhosh Hegde in the years 2008 and 2011 have been the best. One must not forget that the meticulous job done by him and his team, the raids and also the seizure of documents helped us a great deal in the taking the matter up to the Supreme Court. While the ground work was laid by the Lokayukta, what we did further was find clinching evidence which was missing. The work done by the Lokayukta and later by us should be seen as developments in sequence which led us to this ultimately. The lack of time the events of paramount importance in which Justice Hegde’s team was criminally intimidated did not deter him and he went on with his work. In his first report he names Dharam Singh, but as far as the higher illegalities of Shivakumar under Krishna were not brought to the forefront probably for want of evidence. These aspects will be covered by us.
B Sriramulu is another major player in this scam. However he appears to be on a roll where he can come out of the BJP and trounce his former party in a by-poll. Your thoughts sir.
As far as I am concerned we are enemies of any particular party. The CBI is probing this case and I am sure they will get to him too. There is monumental evidence against him despite that with no shame he says that they had given Rs 2000 crore to BJP to fight elections in Karnataka apart from Rs 10 crore every month. Now where has this kind of money come from? There is mine known as Lakshmi mines which belong to Sriramulu and his wife. When the commercial taxes officer goes to find out why the tax had not been paid, he gets a flurry of calls from officials. In fact one of the officials even had the audacity to tell the commercial tax official that he should get out of the premises. All this indicate that he too is guilty in the scam. Law has its limitations and takes it own course and trust me the CBI is waiting to get to him.
What changes do you see in the administration in Karnataka today?
Not much really. We have knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court to seek justice and we have got it. However one cannot expect the Supreme Court to run the government of Karnataka and I am afraid that it is not functioning at the moment. The government has to run on its own. Why has a Lokayukta not been appointed as yet? That to me is criminal neglect.