Staff Reporter

11,670 sq. km of forest land was de-reserved: Kumaraswamy

Chief Minister saysIt was a Congress government that de-reserved the landLand was de-reserved in Bellary district and elsewhereThe then Minister for Forests had opposed the move

Bangalore: Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy came out with facts and figures in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday to assert that it was the Congress government that had de-reserved forest land in Bellary district and elsewhere and sanctioned thousands of acres to 10 private companies in 2003 for mining activities.

The successor government led by N. Dharam Singh did not lag behind the S.M. Krishna government in that respect and allotted patta lands for the same purpose, he said, replying to the marathon debate on the allegation that he had accepted a bribe of Rs.150 crore from those engaged in illegal mining in Bellary district.

The Chief Minister said that in 2003 the Congress government decided to de-reserve forest land for mining, despite opposition from the then Minister for Forests K.H. Ranganath. Even the then Secretary, Forest Department, had expressed himself against de-reservation.

`Promises were not kept'

Private companies such as Salgaocar had, in their letters to the Government, given an assurance that they would employ local people in their mining industries, but they did not. Mr. Ranganath had warned that any act of de-reserving forest land would be a violation of the Forest Conservation Act, but the then government decided to amend the rules in 2001.

Mr. Kumaraswamy alleged that 11,670 sq. km of forest land was de-reserved, which was the first instance of its kind in the administrative history of the State.

The Chief Minister said that Janata Dal (S) national president H.D. Deve Gowda had written to Mr. Dharam Singh when he was the Chief Minister objecting to the grant of patta land to private companies in violation of the rules.

Mr. Kumaraswamy maintained that his government had not allotted even one acre of forest land to anybody.

He welcomed the Congress member Ramesh Kumar's statement that the Congress would lead an all-party delegation to the Prime Minister demanding an inquiry into the irregularities in mining. Such an inquiry would throw more light on what had gone on in the sector.

Criticising the routine demands for resignations and CBI inquiries merely on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations, Mr. Kumaraswamy said the Congress leaders should not forget what the then Lokayukta had written in his reports running into six volumes about corruption in the State in recent years.