Posts filed under ‘Mining scam’
Bangalore: With the illegal mining issue in the spotlight, the Centre on Saturday said it is planning to set up an authority to check the menace.
A Group of Ministers discussed at a meeting in Delhi yesterday outlines of the proposed Mineral Regulation Authority and the powers to be vested with it to deal with illegal mining, Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily said here.
“We have discussed it. There are lot of issues to be looked into,” he told reporters, refusing to commit himself to a timeframe to introduce a bill in Parliament for establishing the authority.
When set up the authority would have powers to regulate mining, granting of mining leases and filing of cases against violators, as a deterrent against illegal mining of minerals.
Moily slammed the Karnataka government for not checking illegal mining and illegal exports of minerals, saying “it is unfortunate though the Centre has given all the powers to states, it has not been exercised”.
“They have failed to prevent illegal mining and regulate mining activity,” he said.
Meanwhile, stepping up its attack, Congress demanded resignation of Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa for his government’s “failure” to check illegal mining and illegal export of iron ore in the state.
“They have no right to govern even for a minute,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi told reporters here, claiming that in a span of three months from January about 3.5 lakh tonne of iron ore was illegally exported from the state ports “and that too under the nose of the chief minister”.
Ridiculing the measures announced by the Karnataka government in ordering closure of 10 ports and ban on issue of transport permits to check illegal exports, he said “they are closing the door after allowing horse to escape”.
Reiterating his party’s demand for a CBI probe into illegal mining, he said “Why don’t they file a simple FIR and transfer it to CBI? It is a nonsensical drama they are enacting.”
Yeddyurappa has rejected the demand for a CBI probe by the state Congress which is now on a 320 km padayatra, to mine-rich Bellary district to protest illegal mining.
To a question, Singhvi said, “If Congress leaders are involved in illegal mining, let them be punished. We are not holding brief for anyone.”
Orissa mining scam update: ‘Govt at fault for allowing illegal mining’; A report from the Indian express
In a clear damnation of the Orissa government, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court hearing into the allegation of forest law violations in multi-crore mining scam in the State, has said that mining activities were going on in a large number of the mines in Orissa without the requisite approvals under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, Environmental Clearances, and the Air & Water Acts. The mining activities also exceeded the production limit as approved under the Mining Plans.
In December last year, senior journalist Rabi Das had filed a case before the CEC regarding the alleged Illegal mining in the lapsed/invalid mining leases/areas in Orissa seeking appointment of a Commission to investigate and study the modalities of the illegal machinations, fix responsibility on individuals (in Government and outside it) and recommendation of remedial measures. The state has so far granted 596 mining leases for extraction of different kinds of minerals. Of this, 341 mines are operating while the remaining 255 are non working/lapsed mines.
The interim report prepared by CEC member MK Jiwrajka on April 26, also said that a large number of the mines have remained operational for long periods of time after the expiry of the lease period because of the delays in taking decisions on the renewal applications filed by the respective mining lease holders and consequently the mines becoming eligible for ‘deemed extension’ as provided under Rule 24 A(6), MCR, 1960. The CEC said that as many as 215 mines were operative for 10 to 20 years on deemed renewal status.
he major findings of the CEC are:
* In a large number of cases the forest areas approved under the FC Act are lesser than the total forest area included in the approved mining leases.
* There was lack of effective coordination and common understanding between the officials of the Mines Department and the Forest Department resulting in the ineffective enforcement of the statutory provisions.
* The “deemed extension” clause is primarily meant to deal with contingency situation and to ensuring that the mining operations do not come to an abrupt end because of administrative delays in deciding on the renewal applications. This provision is not meant to be availed of indefinitely. Moreover, continuing mining over a long period of time without renewal of the mining lease becomes a potential source for serious illegalities and irregularities.
* Nine coal mines, belonging to the Mahanadi Coal Field Ltd, a subsidiary of the Coal India Ltd.(CIL), operating without obtaining the approval under the FC Act on the purported ground that the mining leases have been transferred to them by the CIL during 1990-92 after the promulgation of the Coal India (Regulation, Transfer and Validation) Act, 2002.
The provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act are equally applicable to such forest areas and are required to be complied with. All the other similarly placed coal companies, such as the WCL and the SECL have at the time of the renewals/new mining leases been obtaining the approvals under the FC Act. It is therefore imperative that in respect of these nine leases also, the approvals under the FC Act are obtained by the Mahanadi Coal Fields Limited after following the prescribed procedure. It is recommended that, as was earlier permitted in the case of WCL, SECL and the other coal companies, subject to the payment of the NPV for the forest land included in these nine mining leases, the Mahanadi Coal Fields may be allowed to continue mining for the next 1 year during which period they should obtain approval under the FC Act and failing which the mines should be closed; and
The committee recommended that the applications filed for the renewal of the mining leases are decided by the State of Orissa in a time-bound manner. The concerned lessee should be required to provide to the State Government , within a reasonable period, copies of the approvals under the FC Act, Environmental Clearances, No objection of the State Pollution Control Board under the Air and Water Acts and the Mining Plan duly approved by the Indian Bureau of Mines/other competent authority. This will ensure that the mining operations under the ‘deemed extension’ clause do not continue for an indefinite period. In respect of the mining leases for which the renewal applications are pending with the State Government, the status and the reasons for the pendency for each of the mining leases (as at present) should be provided by the State Government;
The CEC in its report also recommended that all the mining lease holders in Orissa should be directed to pay the NPV for the entire forest area, included in the mining leases. It said demand for the payment of the NPV should be raised by the Divisional Forest Officer concerned within a maximum period of 30 days and the mining lease holder should deposit the amount payable towards the NPV (for the balance forest area) within a period of 30 days thereafter failing which the mine should not be allowed to continue its operations.
In Orissa, substantial areas included in the mining leases as non forest land have subsequently been identified as DLC forest (deemed forest / forest like areas) by the Expert Committee constituted by the State Government pursuant to the SC order dated 12.12.1996. While processing and/or approving the proposals under the FC Act in many cases such areas have been treated as non-forest land. The CEC recommended that the NPV for the entire DLC area included in the mining lease, after deducting the NPV already paid, should be deposited by the concerned lease holder.
Expressing partial satisfaction with the steps taken by the State, the CEC noted that “serious shortcomings still remain which need to be dealt with on priority so as to ensure the strict compliance of the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, the Environmental Protection Act and the other statutory provisions and Rules.”
The next hearing of the case would be taken up on May 7.
The Centre on Thursday informed the Rajya Sabha that the Odisha Government was opposed to the CBI inquiry into the alleged mining scam. Giving reply to a question by MP Rudra Naryan Pany in the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State Prithviraj Chavan on behalf of the Prime Minister said, “The State Government has opposed CBI inquiry into the alleged illegal mining on the grounds that the allegation is being inquired into by the State Vigilance Department and follow up action has been taken.”
He further said that CBI has filed the reply affidavits in the court that the CBI is ready to take up the investigation if ordered by the court to do so. “The matter is sub-judice now,” he maintained.
Chavan further informed that five public interest litigations have been filed in the High Court at Cuttack seeing CBI investigation into the allegations.
He further acknowledged the fact that references from the Ministry of Mines and the Ministry of Home Affairs were received forwarding therewith requests from several persons for independent investigations into the alleged mining scam.
The BJP and Congress in Odisha have alleged that there has been rampant looting of rich minerals and the corruption could touch to a whooping rupees three lakh crore. Both the parties have alleged that the State Government was apprehensive of handing over the case to the CBI fearing that its misdeed would be exposed.
Many would recollect the incident more than two years ago when a few very renowned contractors of the state were arrested allegedly for hatching a conspiracy to liquidate someone. Many people talked of the diabolical plot that a conspiracy was being hatched in a well-known hotel of Bhubaneswar and the driver of a waiting vehicle near the hotel laid bare this sensational information on the basis of which these wellknown,wealthy and influential persons were arrested. They were in jail for months before they could secure bail. The gullible ones in our society clapped and were appreciative of the objectivity of the government in upholding the majesty of law. They realised that the law was taking its course. What happened to the sensational case ultimately does not seem to be relevant to these people now. The short point I am trying to make here is to underline the criminal liability for conspiring to commit a crime. The government was so worried that the contractors were arrested so swiftly.
Let us now see what is happening in case of the mining scam of mind-blowing proportion in our state. The state vigilance organisation is looking into the matter. A few officials who cannot be, because of their profession, as fleet-footed as Das Mohapatras and were poor sitting ducks were arrested. The expeditions of the vigilance organisation are being reported in the Press. Names roll out—Das Mohapatra, Patnaik, and now Rungta. Not a word about conspirators, the political heavyweights, without whose patronage loot of this magnitude would not be going on day in and out for years. Wealth of our motherland was being plundered and yet an enquiry would not pursue the conspirators! Are these elements more important to the present government than the wealth of our state? Can the state apparatus be independent enough to pin down the conspirators or the accomplices? The political persons who were in charge of the Mining Department continue without suffering any political punishment. The political persons who were in charge of Forest and Commercial Tax organisation also have not been affected. Administrative officials of these Departments do not seem to have been taken to task. Police officials also do not get any punishment. If these elements continue in their positions, and if the political patrons also continue to enjoy status, would it be possible for any state government agency to take any probe to its logical conclusion?
Some of the firms being investigated or would be brought under investigation could have their head office not in Orissa. State vigilance organisation would be handicapped in gaining immediate access to those offices and important papers available there. Stolen minerals could have been exported and to get at the truth some exporters may have to be examined along with papers available with Railways; Ports; Customs authorities etc. Indian Bureau of Mines is the organisation of Government of India that has direct interface with mines for the working plans of every mine. If the mining plan for a mine was for extraction of, say, one lakh tonnes of iron ore in 2008-09 but actually the mine was exploited that year more intensively in view of a buoyant market and five lakh tonnes of iron ore was extracted, then the concerned officials of the Indian Bureau need to be examined to find out how this was allowed or ignored. Such irregularity also brings in the Directorate of Mines Safety. Very often reckless mining leads to accidents or generates conditions that endanger safety. Whether the concerned officials of the Directorate of Mine Safety performed their duty needs to be brought under scanner. On many occasions, additional mining operations would be possible by breaking forest areas. This cannot be done unless Government of India permits deforestation. This raises the role of the officials of Ministry of Forest and Environment.So far, administrative action in the nature of suspension has been taken against a few officials of the Mining Directorate. Only 2/3 junior functionaries of other departments have been suspended. The role of officials of Forest Department and Commercial Tax authorities; of the Pollution Control Board and of the Police need to be probed to find out their acts of omission and commission.
All these aspects need to be thoroughly probed to get at the truth. The magnitude and complexity of the loot seem well beyond the technical, professional and jurisdictional competence of the state vigilance machinery. More over, it is not a conventional case of theft of a few lakh of rupees from a Bank. What we are confronted with is a SCAM OF THE CENTURY, perpetrated for years, patronised by politically strong men and abetted by pliant officials. Let us not dilute the issue by initiating an inadequate enquiry. The entire matter should be handed over to the CBI for a thorough probe so that the perpetrators, whoever they are and howsoever high and mighty they are, are punished. Let majesty of law prevail. Let the just demand of the civil society be respected. The need of the hour is to rise above political gimmickry to unravel truth and punish the guilty.
Bhubaneswar, Jan 30 (IANS) A central team is visiting a mining site in Orissa’s Niyamgiri hills to probe the allegation against British mining major Vedanta that it had grabbed forest land, officials said Saturday.
The union ministry of environment and forests team, led by senior official Usha Ramnath, visited Niyamgiri hill in the district of Kalahandi and inspected the site to find out if the mining major has flouted government guidelines, district collector R. Santhanagopalan told IANS.
The two-member team that arrived in the state Thursday is expected to hold discussions with local tribals and officials before departing for New Delhi Monday, he said.
It is the second union forest and environment ministry team to visit the site in the past one month in the wake of allegations that the company had carried out construction work on government land in violation of ministry guidelines.
Vedanta Alumina, part of the Anil Agarwal-promoted Vedanta Resources Plc, has built an alumina refinery at an investment of $800 million at the foot of the Niyamgiri hills, where production has already started.
The firm, which is currently sourcing bauxite from other states at market rates, said mining permission in the hills was essential for it to reduce cost of production.
The project to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills – held sacred by the locals and awaiting central nod – has been vehemently opposed by residents and social activists.
A state investigating team had conducted a probe in November in the same site, some 600 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, and said it did not find any illegal construction activities by the company.
‘The construction was done in non-forest area which the government has already handed over to the firm, and it is not unlawful,’ Santhanagopalan, who had led the state government team, said.
‘There was no construction by the firm either found in the mining lease area or outside of the plant area,’ he said.
The union forest and environment ministry teams have however not revealed their findings.
Calling it a “Black Day” for democracy, the entire Opposition continued their sit-in inside the Orissa Assembly for the second consecutive day on Sunday to protest against sine die adjournment of the House, two weeks ahead of schedule. Speaker Pradip Amat had on Saturday adjourned the House indefinitely as the Opposition created a ruckus alleging Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s involvement in the multi-crore mining scam. Government chief whip R N Pani moved a motion to adjourn the winter session sine die, saying there was no important business before the House.
However, Opposition members did not leave the Assembly as Congress and BJP members launched a dharna terming the early adjournment as “undemocratic and unconstitutional”. BJP leader K V Singh Deo said the Opposition would attend the Assembly till the scheduled date of its conclusion on December 19. “We met the Governor and requested him not to prorogue the Assembly,” said Singh Deo.
The Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders on Sunday met Orissa governor Muralidhar Chandrakant Bhandare and sought his intervention to end the deadlock arising out of the abrupt sine die of Orisa Legislative Assembly by Speaker Pradip Kumar Amat.
Submitting a joint-memorandum to the governor, Opposition leader Bhupinder Singh and BJP Legislature Party leader K.V. Singhdeo said the Speaker had abruptly adjourned the winter session of the House two weeks ahead of schedule.
“We apprised the governor that the sine die adjournment of the Assembly ahead of the schedule amounted to violation of Constitutional norms. We urged him to order for resumption of the winter session of the House to honour the statutory rules which prescribe for 60 days of sitting in a calendar year,” Congress LP leader Mr Singh and BJPLP leader K.V.Singh Deo told reporters here after meeting the governor.
Meanwhile, both the parties have been staging a sit-in through day and night inside the Assembly to lodge their protest against the sine die adjournment.
They have decided not only to continue their agitation, but also begin a symbolic session of the House on Monday.
“We will start a symbolic session of the Assembly for 11 days from Monday as a mark of our respect to the constitution. One of the legislators of the Opposition parties will preside over the session,” Mr Singh and Mr Deo said.
They alleged that the ruling BJD had resorted to “unethical and undemocratic” means to deny the Opposition the right to expose the chief minister Naveen Patnaik in the multi-crore mining scam on the floor of the House by hurriedly moving a motion in the Assembly seeking its sine die adjournment.
The chief minister, however, defended the Speaker Pradip Amat for closing the winter session of the House ahead of the schedule, saying, “It was done as the House had no businesses to transact.”
Congress chief whip Prasad Harichandan and BJP legislature party leader K V Singhdeo said the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India University, Orissa Bill, 2009 was deferred till next session despite the government’s claim that there was no business to transact.