THERE is something rotten not in the state of Denmark, but right here in India in the State of Karnataka and nobody seems to care much. The State’s Chief Minister. BS Yeddyurappa told the Karnataka Legislative Assembly that ever since 2003-2004, as much as 30 million tonnes of iron ore had been illegally exported from the state. Besides exporting ore from Mangalore, Karwar and Belekeri ports, over 76 million tonnes had been exported from Goa, Chennai, Krishnapatnam, Kakinada and Vishakapattanam ports. Permits are required to export ores. Did whosoever engaged in mining ever get the Government permission to export a specified quantity of ore abroad? If ever-the-permitted-amount was exported, can one take it that involved are both official and associate bodies out to make a quick buck? Have they been identified?
The illegally mined ore, equally illegally exported must have enriched mine operators to an unbelievable extent. Where has the profits been banked? In India? In Switzerland and other such places that give shelter to illegal accounts? Has any Minister been involved in the racket?
According to information available, in Karnataka, the previous Dharam Singh government had issued notifications for 33 mining permits, the Kumaraswamy government 19; nine permits were issued during President’s rule and only two by the BJP government. The names of mine operators who received the licenses are on record. Is it difficult to find how much illegal monies have been stashed abroad? Justice Santosh Hegde has reportedly filed cases against eleven mining companies. It would seem that a Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court had ordered authorities to verify the documents of ten companies, also named. Some time in June, about five lakh metric tonnes of iron ore worth Rs 250 crore had mysteriously disappeared. How come? Who are the involved parties in this dubious operation? Are legislators involved?
It was reported on June 30, that with the deadline for legislators to declare their properties and assets to the Lokayukta coming to a close, only 188 MLAs out of a total of 224 and 45 MLCs out of 75 had submitted their papers. What has prevented the rest from making their submissions? It is not pleasant to raise such questions, but how is one to know what is happening, when it is learnt that a proposal is under consideration by the Government on giving suo moto power to the Lokayukta institution, but, among other things, keeping Chief Minister, Cabinet Ministers, Legislators and Members of Parliament out of the Lokayukta’s ambit?
May one remind readers of a report in The Times of India ( May 5) which said that RTI (Right to Information) filed by it has revealed that governments headed by various parties have withdrawn criminal charges against 51 political leaders, in the past ten years? According to the paper, “the beneficiaries include Ministers, MLAs former Ministers and former MLAs”. Is one entitled to draw one’s own conclusions from such information? The Karnataka Chief Minister’s argument is that illegal mining is a “national phenomenon”. It sure is. It is not anybody’s intention to make charges against current MLAs, Ministers et al, or, for that matter, any specific party.
What is a matter for concern is the tremendous financial loss incurred by states where mining is authorised. Indeed, the Karnataka Government according to media reports has filed an affidavit stating that between November 2009 and February 2010 as much as 57,17,370 metric tonnes of iron ore has been clandestinely exported. The state, apparently, had given permission for only 21, 85,452 tonnes and the remaining 35,31,918 metric tonnes of ore was considered as “unauthorised quantity”. Again some companies have been named. The Lokayukata had collected incriminating material against them, including hard discs, documents, records and permits relating to mining leases purportedly issued from Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh and forged transport permits of Karnataka.
What is shocking is that the dirty work has been going on for months, if not years, with the authorities apparently turning a blind eye to what has been going on right under their noses. One can very well understand the angst and despair in the RSS whose veteran leader MD Puranik has been quoted as saying that the “dream of Ram Rajya is crumbling”. The problem is the refusal of mining companies which have been showing utter disdain towards officials. As Lokayukta Santosh Hegde said: “Not two transport companies, but all eleven transport companies were involved in illegal transport of ores. These people managed the officials of Forest, Mines, Police and Road Transport departments, passed through seven check posts before exporting the ore”. Some check, that. It shows an utter disregard towards law and order and the control exercised by companies over government officials. What it tells us is that no businessman should ever be inducted into a cabinet. Theoretically any citizen with no charges against him can run for elections. No citizen-businessman is barred from aspiring for a ministership.
In the past, leading commercial and business houses have liberally helped the India National Congress, but their leaders have wisely stayed away from seeking ministerial positions, knowing fully well that they can get certain things done through quiet behind-the-scene operations. It was foolish on the part of the two belligerent and infamous Bellary brothers, Janardhana and Karunakarans, Reddys to seeks cabinet posts which they got. It was more foolish on the part of the BJP to succumb to the pressures from the brothers who had their own agenda. This has led to the Governor of Karnataka in turn, to cross the Laxman Rekha laid down which strictly limits his gubernatorial role. Mr HR Bharadwaj could have been more circumspect in trying to get the Reddy Brothers out. If they wouldn’t resign on their own, the time has come to demand their resignation. But what has been shocking to watch is the rowdy behaviour of the Opposition members in the legislative Assembly. They have brought disgrace to Democracy. We have reached a point in the post-independence era where rowdyism and behaviour of elected representatives have become inter-changeable. It has brought shame to the nation. What are our netas teaching the GenNext? That in public life anything goes, that corruption is an acceptable practice, that using foul language in the well of the House is the best way of communicating one’s feelings? Where are the leaders of yesteryears? Are we living in a country once led by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and C Rajagopalachari, to name only a few?