Report implicates V. Muniyappa and former department director
The reckless manner in which people in positions of power pushed for renewal of mining licence of the Associated Mining Company (AMC), owned by the former Tourism Minister G. Janardhan Reddy, contributed greatly to the looting of Bellary, says the U.V. Singh report on illegal mining, which forms the basis of the Lokayukta report.
The report holds the former Minister for Mines and Geology V. Muniyappa and the former Director, Department of Mines and Geology (DoMG), M.E. Shivalingamurthy, responsible for “illegal renewal” of mining leases to the AMC, contrary to the recommendation of the Under Secretary, Department of Mines and Geology. As a result of this move, Mr. Reddy became the absolute owner of the AMC in violation of norms and the company went on to commit series of illegalities that cost the State dear.
According to the report, the AMC was granted lease for 30 years in 1966 to mine in 16.9 hectare of land in Venkatagiri village of Sandur taluk; the lease expired in 1996. When the owner of the company applied for renewal of lease for another 30 years, the Under Secretary, Department of Mines, submitted a note for the renewal of lease only from 1996 to 2006, which was endorsed by the Secretary.
However, Mr. Muniyappa overruled the noting and renewal was accorded in 2003 for 10 years from 2000 to 2010. This meant that the period of four years between 1996 and 2000 was not covered at all. The report says that there was no precedent of any lease being renewed with such a glaring gap in between. “The renewal is improper and in violation of MMRD and there is no approval from the Union Government for this under the Act,” the report observes.
Meanwhile, the then Director of Mines, M.E. Shivalingamurthy submitted “incorrect information” to the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) regarding the facts of lease period and its renewal.
He approved Minerals Despatch Permit (MDP) without taking approval of Central Government for transfer of rights or interest to Mr. Reddy and his wife Ms. Lakshmi Aruna. It is to be noted that Mr. Reddy and his wife became partners of AMC from July 31, 2009, and on August 1, 2009, they became absolute owners after retirement of original owners. Terming the renewal lease of AMC as a violation of Minerals Concession Rule (MCR) 1960, the report recommended action under rule 50 of MCR and recommended rejection of further renewal of application. The unlawful renewal helped the AMC in extracting and transporting 3.2 lakh tonnes of iron ore, says the report.
The report also recommends action against Mr. Reddy and his wife for not informing officials about opening a new account in State Bank of India, Bellary, after becoming the absolute owners of AMC and not providing the new account number to Commercial Taxes Department for collection Value Added Tax (VAT) purpose. Detailing that 900 transit permits were issued after expiry of lease period, the report recommended action against the concerned Foresters, Range Forest Officer and Deputy Conservator of Forests, Bellary, for blatant misuse of power.