The present Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka were helpless or powerless before the Reddy brothers, says N. Chandrababu Naidu.
Former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party president, N. Chandrababu Naidu, who always balances his political career between state and national issues, has recently taken up a new cause — “saving democracy from the mining mafia.”
The 58-year old leader, who has the distinction of serving Andhra Pradesh for the longest term (1995-2004) as Chief Minister, is busy mobilising opposition support to protect, in his words, the country’s mining wealth from the powerful Reddy brothers of Karnataka — Revenue Minister G. Karunakara Reddy and Tourism Minister G. Janardhana Reddy.
In an interview to The Hindu on Saturday, Mr. Naidu said the present Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka were helpless or powerless before the Reddy brothers. Excerpts:
Why you have suddenly taken up the mining issue, mobilising support at the national level?
We have been raising our voice for the last five years against the Reddy brothers. But the YSR government was not taking action. Instead, they patronised the mining lobby. Even in Khammam district, 1.50 lakh acres of mining area have been given to [a close relative of YSR]. Nowhere, nobody could give so much land. Countries preserve iron ore, bauxite, granite for future generations. China and the United States are importing such minerals while preserving their own mineral wealth for the future. Because of this, there is a good demand and prices are very high. The mineral mafia wants to exploit this.
In A.P. and Karnataka, the Reddy brothers started their mining company in a small way in 2003-04. There is a history to that. A company promoted by one Ramachandra Reddy was given a mining lease for 20 years (1964-1984) and later extended. After his death, his son, Ram Mohan Reddy, took over and urged the then TDP regime to extend the lease for the company called Obulapuram Mining Company (Private) Limited (OMC). After some time, Mr. Janardhana Reddy joined the company as a director and Mr. Ram Mohan Reddy was out from that company.
The lease was to expire by 2004. Four months after YSR took over as Chief Minister in 2004, he extended the lease up to 2017. YSR even fought with the Central government’s forest department to get permission for OMC’s mining activities in reserve forest areas. Later, when Mr. Janardhana Reddy wanted to start a steel factory, YSR encouraged him.
There was pressure on the Central government. Though the latter tried its best to do some justice, this lobby resisted, and land was given under the pretext of captive mining for a steel plant. One hundred and eighty acres were given to OMC for mining. They even took over Karnataka land illegally for mining. Over the period, they started acquiring other mines too. They even entered no-mine zones, forest areas which run to about 647 acres. They blasted one temple in the mining area and even changed the boundaries between A.P. and Karnataka.
With all these things, they got good money. In 2003-04, when they started the company, the investment was a mere Rs.20 lakh, and at the end of that period, OMC’s turnover was Rs.35.52 crore with a nominal profit of Rs.1.05 crore. During 2008-09, the turnover of OMC alone touched Rs.3000 crore with the provisional profit of Rs.700 crore!
Even Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh informed the Rajya Sabha that the YSR government was not allowing his Ministry to do a survey to fix the village and State boundaries.
The Reddy brothers had an understanding with YSR’s son, Jaganmohan Reddy. The Reddy brothers created so many companies in the last few years.
What do you want the Centre to do now?
The Centre should immediately ask the CBI to probe the activities of this illegal mining, who is behind it, what is the extent of their wealth, and bring out how various laws of the land, particularly those relating to forests, mining, exports, and revenue, were violated, and prosecute those involved in it. The Centre should also come out with its clear mining policy to protect the mining wealth for the future generation. Mining leases should be given carefully.
How piteous is the condition of the country that a Chief Minister [Yeddyurappa] wept before TV cameras as the Reddy brothers had tried to topple him and blackmailed the BJP high command with the support of a section of BJP MLAs in Karnataka.
What proof do you have that Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy was involved in business dealings with Reddy brothers?
We have voluminous documents to prove our charge. The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) on OMC, appointed by the Supreme Court, in its report on November 19, 2009, clearly stated that Mr. Janardhana Reddy, MD of OBC, was involved in a business partnership with Mr. Jagan. It even stated that “OMC has encroached in mineral rich areas outside their mining leases and is carrying out large scale illegal mining in unallotted reserve forest areas. The temple of Goddess Suggalamme Devi, located on the top of the hillock, together with the GTS station, fixed there by the Survey of India, have been destroyed.”
But the present Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Rosaiah, has acted against OMC and even suspended their operations.
After a series of stirs launched by us, and because of our pressure, he wrote a letter to the Centre seeking a CBI probe; that too only to probe the boundary dispute between A.P. and Karnataka. The boundary survey could be done by the Survey of India. What we want is investigation into the illegal mining, how they have done it, how much money was transacted. But Mr. Rosaiah is not talking about that.
Did the A.P. government act on the recommendations of the CEC report?
After we put pressure, the Chief Minister announced that the government would confiscate iron ore, suspend mining, etc. After that, one crore metric tonnes of iron ore were transported and kept elsewhere and 30,000 tonnes was even shifted to Karnataka. I would say either Mr. Rosaiah is afraid or has some problem or there is some pressure on him. I don’t know.
Some say you are doing all this for political mileage.
There is no politics in it. This is national wealth. We cannot allow it to be looted by individuals. For five years, we have been raising the issue. Now it has become a national problem. These people are hitting our economy and wealth every day. Democracy is under threat.
But what about Mr. Yeddyurappa? Can’t he do anything to check the mining lobby?
He cannot do anything. He has surrendered to the Reddy brothers to save his chief ministership. So many powerful elected representatives, both in the Congress and the BJP, are closely related to this lobby.
What do you suggest to put an end to all this?
If the mining lobby continues to have a free hand, in the next 10 years there would be nothing left to mine! We should restrict mining. If the trend goes unchecked, so many Madhu Kodas will emerge and it will be a problem to the society and democracy. There can’t be one rule for Madhu Koda or Ramalinga Raju and another one for the Reddy brothers!
What do you want the Congress and BJP high commands to do?
The governments of their parties, in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, should act firmly. They can’t shield this scandal. I don’t say that all those in these two parties are involved. If they don’t put an end to it, I will fight it out in the interest of saving the nation’s wealth. I don’t have any personal grouse against any one. This is beyond politics. Individuals are not important. The country is permanent and important.
Keywords: illegal mining, Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu, K Rosaiah, Revenue Minister G. Karunakara Reddy, Tourism Minister G. Janardhana Reddy, scandal, Jaganmohan Reddy, Karnataka, Chief Minister Yeddyurappa