Dharam Singh contests Lokayukta’s findings

Special Correspondent

‘I did not permit any mining on patta land’

‘Selective leak of report gives room for suspicion’

‘Charges levelled against me are far from the truth’

GULBARGA: The former Chief Minister N. Dharam Singh has contested the findings of the Lokayukta report, which states he caused a loss of Rs 23.22 crore to the State exchequer by allowing iron ore to be removed from “patta” land.

Refuting reports in the press stating that he was responsible for allowing mining on “patta” land in Belgaum, Bellary and Chitradurga districts, Mr. Singh said here on Tuesday that he had not given permission for any mining licence when he was Chief Minister, and the charges levelled against him in the report were “far from the truth”.

Mr. Singh said the report submitted by the Lokayukta to the Chief Secretary being selectively leaked at a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party Government was facing a crucial test in byelections in eight Assembly constituencies gave room for suspicion. It indicated that the BJP was jittery about the prospects of losing.

The Congress leader said that in fact it was he who had cancelled the licences issued by the previous governments for mining on “patta” land. Subsequently, many legislators and farmers approached him to reconsider the decision.

“There is a difference between mining in ‘patta’ land and seeking permission to remove mineral ore dumped on such land,” Mr. Singh said. There were applications seeking permission to remove mineral ore dumped on “patta” land so that farmers could begin cultivating the land.

He said officials had recommended that permission could be given to remove ore from “patta” land after collecting royalty and fines from those who had mined the ore. The Secretary, Mines and Geology Department, however, advised him that the State could not act arbitrarily on the matter and would have to seek the Centre’s permission.

“Although I was in favour of giving permission to remove mineral ore from ‘patta’ land, I kept the issue pending…” Not long afterwards he had to resign after a section of the Janata Dal (S) legislators withdrew support to the coalition government. “Till I demitted office I did not permit any mining on ‘patta’ land or permit the removal of mined ore from ‘patta’ land,” he asserted.

He said the Kumaraswamy government, which followed, in which B.S. Yeddyurappa was the Deputy Chief Minister, had issued permission for mining on “patta” land. “Both Mr. Yeddyurappa and Mr. Kumaraswamy cannot run away from their responsibility.”

‘Ready for probe’

“I am ready for any inquiry; let the whole controversy be investigated by the CBI. Let the government come clean on why the Bhat Commission appointed to go into the issue was wound up and why the government is hesitant to hand over the investigation to the CBI,” he said.

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