In an interview with rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa, S R Hiremath of the Samaj Parivartana Samuday claims he has irrefutable evidence that the Reddy brothers are involved in illegal mining. Hiremath had filed a petition in the Supreme Court for a probe in illegal mining in Bellary district.
Tell us about the litigation.
We had filed a public interest litigation through our senior advocate Prashant Bhushan in 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 1,274-page petition, 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 is only helping the rise of illegal mining. Moreover, there are so many reports which nail the 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 it 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 Central Empowered Committee. What have you sought from them?
We have sought the cancellation of the mining leases belonging to the Reddys (the brothers Janardhan and Karunakara, who are ministers in Karnataka). 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 Bellary forest area. 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 did nothing.
Why do you think this is the case?
We all know who the most powerful people are in Bellary. The government has come to a grinding halt in Bellary and the officers are all handpicked. The CEC, however, visited these areas which we have been speaking about, and later there was a presentation at the Vidhan Soudha in Bengaluru.
The presentation by Karnataka government was a very general one, speaking about what they were doing to control illegal mining. However when they were asked for specific instances, they cut a real sorry figure.
Could you be more specific about the case against the Reddy brothers?
I spoke about the Ramgad area, where a company called Park Line operates. Had we not gone there, they would have broken down a Rama temple over there to further their mining greed. The Reddy brothers have been saying that they have no mining operations in Karnataka.
We have documents showing how Janardhan Reddy and his wife were brought in as partners into Associated Mining Company which operates in Karnataka.
The mining by them is rampant in Ramgad which has 220 million tonnes of 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 company as well. We have also submitted details regarding the manner in which they ship ore at very low costs in order to dodge taxes, when in reality the shipment reaches elsewhere at a very high price.
Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa says he is serious about stopping illegal mining. Your thoughts?
The CM has more statements than political will. That is all I have to say.
When people speak of mining, they associate the Bharatiya Janata Party 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 of them had all have got support from the mining lobby. I feel all these persons must be held accountable. However, the reason why the Reddy brothers get associated every time 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 interest in mining is.
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 Y S Rajasekhara Reddy's death, the Reddy brothers lost all support from AP. Today I can say some right noises are being made in AP. 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, but 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.