How do you respond to charges that your company, VS Lad & Sons, has been involved in illegal mining in Karnataka?
SR Hiremath, president of Samaj Parivartan Samudaya, a local NGO, is accusing me of being involved in illegal mining based on a partnership deed where VS Lad & Sons has been shown as holding 25 percent shares. I want to clarify here that the company involved in illegal mining is VSL Mining Company Private Limited, which has nothing to do with VS Lad & Sons. And it is the VSL Mining Company Private Limited that has been indicted for illegal mining in the Lokayukta report.
How would you argue your case in the light of documentary evidence presented in the Lokayukta report, which claims that you are one of the major shareholders in VSL Mining Company Private Limited?
My share is only 25 percent. Moreover, the partnership deed was executed in 1962. VS Lad & Sons has not been indicted in the scam. VS Lad & Sons is a registered partnership since 1956. It is one of the oldest firms involved in the field of mining in Karnataka. VSL Mining Company Private Limited is involved in mineral trading and the export business since 2005. This company does not have any mining licence. The term VSL is erroneous and misleading. The common misconception is that both the entities are the same. But it is not so.
If your company was not involved in illegal mining, why was its licence cancelled and put under ‘C’ category by the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC)?
We did not engage in any mining outside the demarcated area. Regarding the CEC cancelling our licences, that was for violating dumping norms, which is a very minor issue. We had dumped iron ore by a small margin outside our boundary area; which is 0.01 percent violation of the Forest Act. We have been fined Rs 50 crore and we have challenged that in the court.
What about allegations of your company’s involvement in the illegal export of iron ore from Belekeri port beyond the permissible limit?
The consignment was meant for the mine-head and we had dispatched 10,000 tonnes of iron ore to Belekeri port after obtaining all permits. VS Lad & Sons has never been involved in exporting iron ore from Belekeri port. I would like to state that the CBI, which is investigating the case, has not framed any charges against us yet.
What legal proof do you have in defense to counter that you and your company are above board?
VS Lad & Sons’ name hasn’t cropped up in any investigation. Moreover, VS Lad & Sons is no way related to VSL Private Limited.
Will you continue in office if the special court, to be set up by the state government, summons your company to face trial?
So far, neither my name nor my company’s name has cropped up in the investigation. Let the investigations continue. Whether I will quit or continue to function as minister, only time will tell.
What do you know about the involvement of other MLAs in the illegal export of iron ore?
Since the CBI is handling the matter, I do not want to comment on it.
Is the Congress-led government in Karnataka really serious about taking up the Lokayukta report to its logical end?
The Lokayukta report has been taken care of by the Supreme Court and the CBI. Recommendations of the Lokayukta report are already being implemented. If any more recommendations are made, our government will implement them too.