Iron ore worth Rs 60,000 crore looted, says Congress
The illegal iron ore mining and export scam in Karnataka is estimated to be to the tune of Rs 60,000 crore, the Opposition Congress claimed on Tuesday as it pushed for a CBI probe and sought the resignation of Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa.
"This is the biggest scam of this century," Opposition leader Siddaramaiah alleged while participating in a debate on resignation of Lokayukta N Santosh Hegde and illegal mining in the state. Hegde, however, withdrew his resignation on Saturday.
Referring to the disappearance of five lakh tonnes of iron ore seized at Belekeri port, he said records at this port as well as the one in Karwar suggested around 35 lakh tonnes of illegal mining and exports between November and February.
If one took into account the extent of iron ore extracted in Karnataka and exported from other ports such as Mangalore and Vishakhapatnam, nobody can even imagine (the extent) of the illegal export, the Congress leader alleged.
"If we do the calculation, it (illegal iron ore mining and exports) could be Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 60,000 crore. Iron ore to the extent of Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 60,000 crore has been looted," Siddaramaiah said.
Those engaged in illegal mining and exports had colluded with officials, he alleged, pointing out to several checkposts of the departments of forests, mines and geology and transport failing to check illegal transportation while being taken to ports by road.
Siddaramaiah said though the Lokayukta submitted its report on rampant irregularities in the mining sector more than one and half years ago, the government chose not to act against it.
He said since illegal mining and export involved inter-state operations as well as overseas shipments, it should be probed by CBI. Siddaramaiah said Yeddyurappa, who also holds the portfolios of forest as well as mines and geology, has no moral right to continue in office and should resign.
The discussion raised a lot of heat and sparks flew, with Speaker K G Bopaiah expunging certain remarks from both sides.
As Siddaramaiah repeatedly insisted on a CBI probe, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister S Suresh Kumar sought to belittle CBI, dubbing it "Congress Bureau of Investigation".
Earlier, intervening, Yeddyurappa said he would convene a meeting with leaders of opposition in the legislative assembly and council to discuss ways to strengthen the institution of Lokayukta and giving more powers to the statutory body.