By Pushkal Shivam:
The Lokayukta’s voluminous report brought to the forefront the “Reddy Republic” which straddles Andhra Pradhesh and Karnataka. The Reddy brothers of Bellary have built a massive empire out of mining activities in state. The empire involves a vicious nexus of interests and has a deep influence on the politics of the state. The report documents how illegal mining has cost the public exchequer thousands of crores. The fact that B.S. Yeddyurappa, the leader of BJP’s sole bastion in South India, one who had weathered many a storm until then, stepped down from the position of the Chief Minister of the state only adds to the gravity of the report.
While interacting with the press on the sidelines of IIT-Madras’ technical festival, Shaashtra 2011, former Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde said that the Karnataka government “is not acting at all” on his report on illegal mining in the state. “It has appointed another committee to look into that (report). This reminds me of what Winston Churchill once said, ‘You want to kill an idea, appoint a committee’”, said Hegde.
The report, unveiled a few days before his retirement from the post of Lokayukta of Karnataka, severely indicted the then Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and led to his resignation. The report also indicted several other ministers and bureaucrats of the Karnataka government.
The former Supreme Court judge also contrasted the tepid response of the Karnataka government with that of Andhra Pradesh, at whose behest the CBI investigated into Janardhan Reddy’s mining company and arrested him last month.
During his address, Hegde proclaimed himself a member of civil society and said that “it is not the number” but “the quality of the people” who participated in the movement against corruption which has made the difference.
He also emphasized that “it is not the question of inclusion of the Prime Minister and the Judiciary in the Lokpal bill because they are already under the Prevention of Corruption Act”. It is an attempt to exclude them from the sort of investigation that the Lokpal would undertake, contended Hegde.
In his view, corruption in a society is inevitable. However, it is the exponential growth of corruption which is dangerous. In that case, can the Jan Lokpal bill end the miseries of the common man by rooting out corruption at the grassroots? “If people who are there as the members of the Lokpal are active, honest, hardworking, it will be the strongest institution in India”, said Hegde.
He also repudiated the idea of legalizing bribe-giving to end petty bribery, as suggested by the Chief Economic Adviser to the Government Kaushik Basu a few months ago, because “only rich people who can pay bribe will get their work done.”
According to him, the genesis of corruption is the overall deficit in governance which got intertwined with “the lack of ethical practice on part of society”.
Hegde sought to take the “unelected tyrants” jibe aimed at the civil society head on, even as he tried to justify the infringement by the so called “civil society” on what is considered to be the mandate of parliamentarians.
“If there is a social boycott of the people who are perceived to be corrupt, need not be proved to be corrupt, I think 50% of the corruption would come down straight”, he said.