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Reflections on the Lokayukta Report

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This event took place on the 1st Oct. I was not sure if the invitation sent was specific to me, or open, and by the time I got an aswer to my querry to the same effect, it was too late to publish on PRAJA, as an event.

The discussion note circulated in advance read as below:

SYSTEMIC EROSION AND REGIMES OF ILLEGALITIES? REFLECTIONS ON THE LOKAYUKTA REPORT ON ILLEGAL MINING IN KARNATAKA

The Lokayukta Report on illegal mining is now seen as the report which has brought to light the rampant illegalities associated with the iron-ore mining industry and the complicity of politicians in such acts of corruption. However, the details of the report require further reading and contextualization to understand key issues. These include a better reading of the political and administrative apparatus that has made such extant corruption possible, the subversion and oversight of legal norms and regulations, and the economic, ecological, and social impact on the immediate regions.  The implications of all these on democratic processes, political culture, administrative structures, and the cultural fabric of the state also need to be unpacked.  

In its efforts to foster a discussion on the above issues, DAKSH (a registered organization that focuses on issues of public accountability) is organizing a public discussion on Saturday, October 1st, 2011 at AASHIRWAD, St Marks Road Cross, Bangalore – 560001 at 10.30 am.

Speakers include:

  • Dr Sarah Joseph: On politics and governance;
  • Mr Harish Narasappa, President, Daksh: On legal implications;
  • Mr V Balasubramanian, retired additional chief secretary, GoK: On administrative and bureaucratic implications of the illegal mining activities in the state.
  • Mr M C Nanaiah, Member of Legislative Council, Karnataka: Political, economic and legislative contexts which has led to anti-democratic trends.
  • Mr B L Shankar, senior leader, Janata Dal & former state minister: Political, economic and legislative contexts which has led to anti-democratic trends.
  • Mr B Somashekar, senior leader, JD (U): Political, economic and legislative contexts which has led to anti-democratic trends.
  • Prof Dr Chandan Gowda, Azim Premji University: On caste and capital alliances; and
  • Mr Leo Saldanha, ESG: On ecological issues.


Of the lot, Mr Somashekar and Mr Leo Saldanha did not show up. Amongst the audience were (even if not for the entire duration) Prof Rajeev Gowda, and Dr Ashwin Mahesh. The opening statements were made by Dr A R Vasavi, member, Daksh.



My take-aways from the meet:

Mr Balasubramanian's talk was the most interesting - salient points:

The recently released LokAyukta report was the 2nd one. The 1st one was released as long back as in 2008. Amongst other things, the report pertained to land grab of close to 12 lakh acres, and going by even a conservative estimate (based on guidance value), the value would amount to Rs 195,000 cr, far more than the Mining and 2G scam values put together. The government picked him to head the 20-member "Task Force for recovery of Public Land and Its Protection", in September, 2009. But, before it could finish its work, it was wound up by the then Revenue Minister (Mr Karunakar Reddy - of Bellary brothers notoriety), basing his action on the allegation that he had made the contents public, before submitting it to the
government.

Mr Balasubramanian however went on to publish the report on his own. He had brought a few copies of the same for the meet, which got exhausted by the time I could lay my hands on it.

Relevant excerpts from ToI articles on the issue, published a few months back, are reproduced in italics, right below.

The 2nd LokAyukta report apparently covered the misdeeds of My Yeddiyurappa. And, his excuse for not tabling it was the non-tabling of the earlier report which covered the misdeeds of earlier CM's.

Mr Balasubramanian's solutions:

  • Presidential form of government, as compared to the present Westminster model, for better accountability.
  • Replace the "adversarial system of jurisprudence", where an accused is innocent until proven guilty, with the Continental system of "inquisitorial jurisprudence", where an accused has to prove his innocence once he is charged by an 'investigating magistrate'.

An interesting point made by Mr Balasubramanian was that the whole idea of appointing task forces/ enquiry committees, etc was to go on dragging issues till such time as the matter out of the gaze of the public, after which the matter is quietly buried.

Both Mr Nanaiah and Mr Shankar talked at length about the deterioration in values, and about how the civil society needs to do more to expose wrong doings by the powers that be. During the interaction session, when I asked them as to what they, as senior leaders, were doing within their own parties to curb such tendencies amongst their members, they identified the cause largely as the lack of inner party democracy. Prof Rajeev Gowda, from the audience corroborated the view.

But, apart from lamenting the stated fact, they had no substantive solutions to offer.

Another interesting point brought out by Mr Shankar was that a very senior police official working with the LokAyukta had confided to him in disgust that their own officials in the districts had become the biggest source of corruption, through use of blackmail, since the LokAyukta had no powers over the selection of the officials at that level. He was making the point about the improper empowering of the LokAyukta.

Dr Sarah Joseph's rambling ultimately landed up at the point she was trying to make - of 'neo-liberalism' being the root cause of this degradation - not surprising, coming from somebody from 'God's own country' :))). When I got an opportunity, I countered that citing the example of the kind of empowerment of the aam aadmi that the opening up of the telecom sector has achieved, and adding that the problem lay in the government not playing its roll of the facilitator and regulator, effectively.

That's as far as I can recall. I am going to be forwarding the link to this blog to as many of the people who participated and inviting them to add their comments.

Coming out of the meeting, I was left with a feeling of hopelessness over the whole scenario. But, on the other hand, for the first ever time, we have ministers lying in jails, and more heading that way. So, well, there is hope after all. Let's continue the fight.

Relevant excerpts from ToI reports:

Undeterred by the Karnataka government's efforts to stonewall his report on land encroachments, former bureaucrat V Balasubramanian is ready to make his report public. The government has not just opposed his report, but also refused to publish it.

Balasubramanian is now using his own resources to print 2,000 copies of the expose, Greed and Connivance - the saga on government land encroachments by the powerful. Buoyed by public response to the report, he is determined not to let his efforts go waste and is spending over Rs 2.2 lakh on printing.

"There is a lot of demand for the report. It's a public issue. People have a right to know, and should be able to read it. I decided to print it to put it in the public domain. I'll send it to public representatives of all parties and other stakeholders, and those who are interested," he said.

The Yeddyurappa government's resistance began much before Balasubramanian submitted his report, with revenue minister G Karunakara Reddy faulting the former bureaucrat for flouting norms while submitting the report.


For the full report, click here

The government, which picked retired additional chief secretary V Balasubramanian to head the 20-member Task Force for Recovery of Public Land and Its Protection, in September 2009, is upset and uncooperative.

His stinging remarks and expose of the bureaucrat-politician-builder-planter nexus, which includes the highest office in the state -- that of the chief minister -- and revenue minister, have obviously hit home.

"A week before the July 3 meeting with the members, I sent a proposal to the Karnataka Public Lands Corporation, requesting it to publish 1,000 copies. The KPLC MD, who is the member-secretary, kept it with him for 4-5 days. Later, revenue principal secretary Ashok Kumar Manoli asked us to wait till July 4, the last day of the Task Force. I knew the government wouldn't approve of printing it. We had worked for two years and I wanted it to be available to the people,'' Balasubramanian told TOI.

On July 4, he submitted the report titled `Greed and Connivance' to the government. Upset with the content and remarks, revenue minister G Karunakara Reddy opposed it and tried to blame the former IAS officer of flouting norms.

Realizing that the report would be buried, Balasubramanian spent Rs 54,000 to print 200 copies -- 100 each in Kannada and English -- and distributed them to the Task Force members, media, some NGOs and others who sought it from him.

Now, he's ordered printing of another 1,800 copies, 900 each in English and Kannada, at a cost of Rs 2.2 lakh.


While working as chairman of the Task Force, Balasubramanian did not take a car from the government, but used his personal vehicle. He hasn't claimed fuel charges either. "I filled petrol from the honorarium given to me by the government,'' he said.

The Task Force hasn't spent much money. Except while visiting Gulbarga, the chairman and members travelled either by road or rail.


For that report, click here

Muralidhar Rao

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