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Bangalore: RTI activist who took on mining mafia faces probe

Bangalore: RTI activist who took on mining mafia faces probe

The state government has ordered an enquiry on whether Hiremath's NGO has received illegal foreign funds.

Bangalore: RTI activist SR Hiremath, the whistleblower who exposed illegal mining in the state is now facing a probe against himself.

Four years ago, Hiremath decided that he would take his campaign against illegal mining mafia in Bellary to the country's highest court. The 69-year-old activist, who heads the NGO Samaja Parivarthana Samudaya, filed his first PIL in Supreme Court in 2009. Hiremath was able to expose the role of many top politicians in the state who were subsequently sentenced to jail.

Four years after, the RTI activiist has now found himself being investigated for illegal funding. The state government has ordered an inquiry on whether Hiremath's NGO has received illegal foreign funds.

"I feel this is concocted and deliberated by vested interests. How can filing a PIL and exercising constitutional rights be illegal. There is obviously more to it than meets the eye, but since we're party to it we welcome it and will give all requisite documents," said Hiremath.

Hiremath's troubles started when he released documents last month against Congress Minister Santosh Lad, a close confidante of Chief Minister Siddaramiah.

Hiremath says Lad's mining company was categorised as amongst the worst offenders by the Supreme Court.

Pressure has been mounting for the past month to get Santosh Lad removed from the cabinet both through protests by Opposition parties and petitions to the Governor. But with lad enjoying prolonged protection, the question being raised is: Is the chief minister letting go of the credibility he has built over many years, to protect one minister?

But the government denies that this letter from the CM's office to probe Hiremath's NGO is vengeful.

"There is no order, no revenge, no enquiry. I am not protecting anyone. I'm going by the facts. I don't say he is innocent, it is for the court to assess. I have maintained that there is no role in illegal mining," said chief minister Siddaramaiah.

However, Hiremath who is not new to such threats says such actions will not deter him. "We have nothing to worry, nothing to fear. We will continue our work with renewed vigour. There is no impact of the vested interests," Hiremath added.

first published:November 02, 2013, 09:20 IST