The country’s biggest illegal mining case, in Karnataka, has reached an important stage. These are the men who are making it happen


By Vijay Simha

3.04 crore tonnes of iron ore have been illegally shipped out of Karnataka since 2003
Rs 152 billion is the value of the illegal ore at today’s prices


Photo: SB Satish

The Sleuth

Santosh Hegde
Karnataka Lokayukta

Role > Blew the scam wide open with his exhaustive reports on the loot of iron ore, principally from Bellary. Early this year, his men made the biggest seizure of illegal iron ore in India, 8.5 lakh tonnes, from Karwar port.

Impact > Made illegal mining a topic of discussion in homes with relentless investigation. Forced the government to take note of the scam by resigning in protest against moves to end his probe. Has generated respect for the office of the Lokayukta.


Photo: AP

The Commissioner

Navin Chawla
Chief Election Commissioner

Role Received the complaint seeking disqualification of the Reddy brothers as MLAs for amassing private wealth while being cabinet ministers. Sent the complaint to the Karnataka CEO, asking him to serve notice on the Reddy brothers.

Impact Has made disqualification of the Reddy brothers as MLAs a possibility, and has generated fear in the hearts of their political mentors. Has put the Election Commission again at the forefront as a trustworthy institution.


Photo: S Radhakrishna

The Overseer

BS Yeddyurappa
Chief Minister, Karnataka

Role Offered the Reddys cabinet berths and targeted them later for illegal mining. Backed off when he saw they could unseat him, and gave them a free hand in Bellary. Resumed action against illegal mining, under pressure from LK Advani.

Impact Bellary’s iron ore was looted because he looked the other way for long. Gave the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a negative reputation as a party so on corruption. Also lost middle-class support for trying to curb the Lokayukta..


Photo: SB Satish

The Custodian

HR Bhardwaj
Governor, Karnataka

RoleAccepted the complaint against the Reddys from a Congress MLC, that they were using their offices for profit and causing the State loss. Asked the Reddys to appear for hearings and when they didn’t, forwarded the complaint to the EC.

Impact Improved the image of the Governor’s office. Put life into a dying probe against the Reddys. Took the issue to a higher level when he asked President Pratibha Patil if ministers can indulge in such corrupt practices.


Photo: Shailendra Pandey

The Faultfinder

KC Kondaiah
Congress MLC, Karnataka

Role Sent the complaint against the Reddys to the Governor, which has now brought the case to the doors of the President. Raised the issue repeatedly in the state assembly, forcing Yeddyurappa to promise action against the guilty.

Impact Pulled many high profile offices into the case, including that of the Governor, the CEC, and the President. Put life into a struggling Karnataka Congress with his campaign. Raised hopes in Bellary, where officials are terrified of the Reddys.


The Mastermind

Janardhana Reddy
Tourism Minister, Karnataka

Role Lorded over Bellary as the minister in-charge of the district. Took control of the iron ore business and generated massive wealth for his family. Funded the BJP and almost brought down Yeddyurappa’s government on the issue of his mining deeds.

Impact India’s biggest illegal mining case took shape because he continued with his practices even when it was risky. Gave the BJP a negative image. Caused concern in the Andhra Pradesh Government because his company is registered there


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