Belly brothers….

First published on Times of India on 1st June 2011

Gluttons tend to bite more that what they can chew and what better example to highlight this than the story of Henry VIII of England. A gluttonous, cruel and avaricious King who left England in debt at the time of his death was just as famous for his extravagance and mismanagement of the treasury. Henry VIII was better known for having married six times (of which he beheaded one wife) and for having countless mistresses. Henry VIII binged on red meat and at the time when Henry VIII died, he was extremely obese and even the bed he would sleep on could not take his weight. His body was covered with ulcers and it was apparently a mammoth affair to even move his coffin. It is believed that his coffin finally gave way and when the sentries found him, dogs were licking his dripping blood. This was the gory end of a covetous King. There are countless examples of Henry VIIIs in India today, but I don’t see an end to their gluttony as yet. Thankfully a few of the gluttons have been put on some dietary restrictions within the confines of Tihar but many more are still far away from it.

Closer home and far from the English countryside, a small historical town in Karnataka which is better known for it’s large deposits of iron ore and manganese than anything else has been nurturing gluttony. Bellary has gained prominence in the last few years. No longer a sleepy, dusty town, it is an important steel industrial town with some of the world’s big wigs including the Arcelor Mittal group setting up shop there. But, it is more famous for being home to three brothers not Huey, Dewey or Louie of Donald’s nephews’ fame, but it is home to the ‘Belly Brothers’. (I call them ‘ Belly Brothers’ for two reasons. One is because Belly is short for Bellary and the other is because they are gastronomically challenged). The ‘Belly Brothers’ are important people, as important as Henry VIII ever was and probably even as wealthy as he was. All three of the ‘Belly Brothers’ are one way or the other intricately woven into the politics of Karnataka .Two of them hold ministerial positions while another is a Member of the Legislative Assembly. They have a profound influence on the leadership of Karnataka. They are the ones who pull the strings and distract the Chief Minister from completing a long and urgent “ To do list” in the state.

The ‘ Belly Brothers’ are Kings of iron ore and steel and are accused of illegal mining activities. The Lokayukta’s second report on illegal mining is keenly awaited. The ‘Belly Brothers’ not only extend their influence within Karnataka but exert it to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh as well and are known for their political clout in the neighbouring state. There is no story to the road to their Kingdom; it is a ‘mythical’ tale of unverifiable means, one that capitulated them to capacious fortunes within a decade and at a time when China’s demand for iron ore was at its peak. One of the brothers, the Infrastructure & Tourism Minister has proved beyond doubt the incredibility in the ‘Incredible India’ tag line. He sits on a gold chair that runs into several crores and has himself once declared that the brothers are worth in excess of 1,000 crores. At the assembly when the opposition accused the Minister of being worth a hundred crores, he pompously said “ I want to correct them, I am not worth hundred crores. I am worth thousand crores”. Even the luxury carmaker Mercedes opened a showroom in Bellary after having sold a large number of cars to the mining tycoons of Bellary in a year. Naturally, the oral declaration by the Minister is greatly different to his paper declaration.

Despite the plethora of mining activities in Bellary, it is the Kings who fill the coffers while the slaves are covered with only dust from the iron ore that poses a serious health issue. “In recent years, Bellary has seen wealth generation, health degeneration and environmental degradation simultaneously,” says B. Seshadri, a retired economics professor who has lived in the town for the past four decades. Over the last few years it has been startling for us to discover that the monetary value and the pace of scams being unearthed has been far greater than the minerals and ores extracted from the earth’s crust in Bellary and beyond! There is no limit or end to gluttony and the gory end of Henry VIII must serve as a reminder that

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed” – MK Gandhi.


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