Enacting a farce

Lokayukta Santosh Hegde’s comments on the Karnataka government’s Action Taken Report (ATR) on his findings on illegal mining in the state are an indictment of the government. The government has not only tried to evade responsibility for the illegalities and irregularities which are rampant in the mining sector but also tried to pass off routine and useless government directives and show-cause notices to officials on the issues pointed out by Hegde as effective action. This amounts to misleading the Lokayukta and the public on a matter which costs the state heavily in economic, environmental and other terms. The ATR, as Hegde correctly noted, is only an action promised report.  It is well-known that governments take recourse to such ruses when they do not want to take effective action on the recommendations of inquiry committees or other agencies. The government had sought more time from the Lokayukta to file its report and this was probably only used to find excuses for not taking action.

The Lokayukta had submitted its report with extensive documentation in December last year after investigating illegal mining activities in Bellary, Tumkur, Chitradurga and other areas from the year 2000 to 2006. The government has underestimated the losses to the state exchequer from illegal mining. It has not taken action even on specific cases of illegalities like sub-leasing of land obtained under raising contract pointed out by Hegde. On de-reservation of forest land, the government is awaiting information from its own forest department for the last six months. There is also an attempt to shift the blame to the Centre for the failure to undertake a joint survey of the Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh border to check illegal mining. What prevented the government from pursuing the matter with the Centre?

The government’s evasion and inaction only prove that it is unwilling or unable to take effective measures to check illegal mining in the state, possibly because of the influence of the mining lobby. The entire political establishment is complicit in the illegalities as the Lokayuka’s finding against former chief minister Dharam Singh shows. Former Governor Rameshwar Thakur refused to give permission to prosecute Dharam Singh against whom the Lokayukta had made a valid case. The present government is perhaps more deeply involved, going by the farcical ATR it has presented to the Lokayukta.

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