Hiremath demands probe against 'Wild Karnataka' makers

Investigate financial irregularities by 'Wild Karnataka' makers: Hiremath

Poster of the documentary

Samaj Parivartana Samudaya founder president S R Hiremath has requested the Karnataka State government for an independent enquiry into the alleged gross irregularities, illegalities and violations by the documentary makers of ‘Wild Karnataka’ and senior forest officials. 

Speaking to media persons on Tuesday, he said prima facie there are enough documents to prove that documentary makers-- Sarath Champati, Kalyan Varma and Amogavarsha-- along with retired Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Vinay Luthra and serving IFS officer Vijay Mohan Raj have indulged in the act that amounts to a serious criminal conspiracy of defrauding the government and also making huge ‘ill-gotten’ money by entering into commercial ‘exploitation’ of the documentary.

He said the makers of the documentary were given unlimited access to forests of Karnataka and also lodging facilities at Jungle Lodges for free of cost while making the documentary over four years since 2014. The makers and Luthra (on behalf of Karnataka Forest Department) had entered into a memorandum of understanding on November 3, 2014 stating that the ‘copyrights of the film shall vest with the KFD’. However, the remaining raw footage (of over 400 hours of video) will be co-owned by KFD and the makers (including the contributors and sponsors). 

Hiremath said the total cost incurred by the KFD for making the documentary, in terms of giving access to forest, camera charges and lodging and boarding runs up to Rs 38 crore. He said, it is also learnt that one of the three makers of the documentary also managed to get Rs 25 lakh from the Eco-tourism Development Board. 

While KFD has the right to use the documentary for educational purpose and others; the makers have entered into agreements with foreign private channels to broadcast the documentary, which was originally meant only as non-commercial documentary for the people of Karnataka. 

Hiremath charged that the trio have entered such an agreement with channels without bringing the same to the notice of KFD. “They have earned crores of rupees by selling rights of the documentary and raw footage to the channels,” he said and added that the enquiry should also look into the aspects of money laundering and other financial criminalities involved in the case. 

The memorandum signed between the makers and the KFD clearly states that the funds generated by the documentary, after recovering all the costs incurred towards the production of the film, should be donated to Tiger Foundation, and PADFs for the purpose of conservation. However, this has not been met, he charged.

No violations done: Makers 

Speaking to DH, Amogavarsha refuted the charges and claimed that none of the makers of the documentary have ‘made’ a single paisa from the film. 

“We have provided all the documents, bank account statement and other details to the KFD for auditing. During the auditing, there was no wrongdoing found. These allegations are baseless,” he said.

The MOU clearly states that after recovering the cost of production the excess funds will be utilised for conservation work and once we get that funds it will be utilised for said purpose.