A grim reminder of the forgotten ‘loot’ of the Reddy brothers.

Mining baron Reddys singsong wedding invitation is funny but its no laughing matter
news Opinion Friday, October 21, 2016 - 16:04

Sometimes, the poorer among us wonder, what do rich people do with the obscene amount of money?

In India, they spend it on weddings.

Indian weddings, lavish or minimal, are not just the union of two people or family events, they are social statements. A family that earns Rs 10 lakh a year saves for decades to spend Rs 20 lakh on a wedding. A man like Gali Janardhana Reddy – who along with his wife declared assets worth Rs 115 crore in 2008 but is alleged to possess assets worth Rs. 5,000 crore from illegal mining – will spend so much that you would not know where to begin calculating the expenditure.

His invitation for his daughter Brahmani’s wedding is just the start. The cost of production of the boxed invites, with an LCD screen displaying a specially-produced music video on expensive sets, could easily run into several crore rupees. And that’s just the invitation.

Videos and stories on the invitation have since gone viral online, and are being written about and shared extensively with a heavy dose of humour and laughter. Sure, it is funny, even if there is a class-bias in us laughing at his invitation while we carry on with our own eccentricities in our weddings.

But this is no laughing matter. Reddy’s opulence and naked display of wealth is a reminder of the large scale mining scam which swallowed the Ballari district in Karnataka bordering Andhra Pradesh.

The recording of his extravagant wedding invite, and the wedding itself in the near future, is a very important issue given the scale of allegations which the Reddy brothers face.

The father of the Reddy brothers – Janardhana, Karunakara and Somashekara – was a police constable in Andhra Pradesh. They climbed up the political and business ladder through the 1990s, but in 1998, their finance company had a debt of Rs 200 crore. But their power and influence grew enough to control governments after they obtained licenses in 2000s to mine iron ore and feed a hungry global steel market.

It is widely believed that they financed the BJP and help the party take over the Karnataka government in 2008. Earlier, they had helped Sushma Swaraj with her campaign for the Bellary MP seat in 1999, which brought her closer to the Reddy family even though she lost the election. The Reddy brothers called her their ‘mother’.

They even led a revolt in the BJP later when the then chief minister of Karnataka BS Yeddyurappa tried to increase taxes levied on mining trucks. Fearful of losing his position, Yeddyurappa relented.

The Reddy brothers did not hide their wealth. They travelled in expensive cars, donated gold and diamonds to temples and gave money away in charity for the poor. They are estimated to have spent Rs. 20 crore for a family wedding in 2009.

In 2011, when Janardhana was arrested, his 15-kg precious throne and his Bell Helicopter nicknamed Rukmini were impounded. India Today reported, “In keeping with the 'royal' image, the plates, spoons, forks, puja vessels and even bathroom fittings in Janardhan's house were made of gold. A crown similar to the Rs 43 crore one he donated to the Tirupati temple was seen by select visitors in the foyer of his house. He had an indoor swimming pool, floating in which, he would watch movies on a 70 mm screen. He had a massage room, a well-stocked bar, a top-notch home theatre, and even a bomb shelter in his house.

Janardhan's shirts may have been a deceptive blue. But gold thread was reportedly interwoven into them, taking the cost of a shirt to a reported Rs 1 lakh. He wore a jewel-encrusted belt worth Rs 13 lakh and carried a gold-plated BlackBerry. Though not seen smoking, he had gold-plated ashtrays and lighters in his house.”

The Karnataka Lokayukta report on mining in the state said that in 2009-10 their business generated a revenue of Rs 4,600 – illegally.

According to the Lokayukta report, between April 2006 and July 2010 the state exchequer lost Rs 16,085 crore due to illegal mining, and extensive environment damage was done to the district of Ballari.

Janardhana Reddy did not simply walk away, he spent three years and four months in jail and was granted conditional bail in January 2015.

While a lot of noise was made during his arrest, India is nowhere near recovering any of the alleged loot. As the CBI struggles to trace the tax havens across the world where the money is parked, Gali Janardhana Reddy remains almost a free bird, capable of living a fantastically expensive lifestyle.

 

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