HDK digs out mining dirt during Cong ruleadmin
Launching a counter-attack over the bribery charges against him, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy on Tuesday accused the two previous governments of dereserving thousands of acres of forest land for the benefit of miners and offered to hold an impartial inquiry into all irregularities in mining activities during the last six years.
Speaking at length for the first time after BJP MLA Janardhana Reddy’s stinging allegation that Rs150 crore had been collected on behalf of the chief minister from Bellary miners, Mr Kumaraswamy told the Assembly that he was ready to order closure of all mines if the House so desired. Dissatisfied with his rejection of a CBI inquiry, the Opposition Congress staged a walkout, after a marathon three-hour debate. Claiming that the allegation had been made without any proof and because his government had acted tough against the mining lobby, he said he would write a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday requesting a new policy decision to help Karnataka implement the ban on mining.
Accusing the previous S M Krishna government of dereserving large tracks of forest areas to allow mining by private companies, Mr Kumaraswamy said: ”In my letter to the prime minister, I will explain how illegal mining activity is being taken up in the State with the involvement of dignitaries. I am also ready to take a delegation of political leaders to Delhi to meet the prime minister in this regard.”
Without naming Mr Krishna, Mr Kumaraswamy said the State government in 2003 had dereserved 40,000 sq km of forest area, much against the stand of the then forest minister K H Ranganath, to allow mining by private companies. As much as 13,378 acres in Bellary district and 3,216 acres in Tumkur district had been dereserved to facilitate mining.
Just before the general polls, the S M Krishna government had recommended to the Centre in February 2004 that 10 private companies be allowed to undertake mining operations on 4,840 acres of land in the State, Mr Kumaraswamy said. He termed it a ”big poll-eve drama”.
The Dharam Singh government too had recommended to the Centre that mining by 12 companies on 3,105 acres of land be allowed, he alleged. In fact, Mr Singh had heard the pleas of 1,136 companies seeking mining permits, in just eight sittings. ”This would mean that he had spent less than one minute per company,” the chief minister remarked. His father H D Deve Gowda had written a letter to Mr Singh then expressing concern over his action.
Mr Kumaraswamy alleged that the royalty being paid by these mining companies to the government was not in tune with market prices. Hence he had written a letter to the Centre in April this year that the royalty be increased to at least 10 per cent of the cost.
Listing the steps taken by him to streamline mining activity, he remarked: ”do you still believe that I will be able to collect Rs 150 crore from miners when I have initiated such stringent measures against them?” He also maintained that the bribery allegation was a ”gift” for ”acting tough against the mining lobby.” Mr Kumaraswamy, who referred to more than a dozen files and documents, alleged that eight companies, owned by two partners, had cornered the mining activity in Kanakapura through Mysore Minerals. Of the 88 mining companies in Kanakapura, his government had banned 38 which had resorted to illegal mining. A joint survey would be taken up with the Survey of India in Kanakapura.
The Chief Minister’s reference to Mr Siddaramaiah at one stage created a mild commotion, but he clarified that Mr Siddaramaiah’s recommendation for a mining licence for a friend had been rejected by Mysore Minerals.
REDDY SET, BUT NO GO
The man in the eye of the storm, BJP MLC Janaradhan Reddy, made a sudden appearance in the Legislative Council after his long exile, on Tuesday. His entry into the House created a furore as Congress members demanded a statement from Mr Reddy, which was opposed by the ruling party members. However, Mr Reddy, who was flanked by BJP ministers, refrained from making any statement in the House or outside.