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Odisha: Issue of illegal Mining fuels Power War

 

Last updated Monday June 09, 2014

Odisha, Illegal Mining, Scam, Naveen Patnaik, Srikant Jena  
 

"It’s still in doubt if the fine imposed by Odisha Government on mine owners for illegally raising minerals can be recovered or not. But it has been clear from the present blame game that the issue of illegal mining has only fuelled the battle for Power in Odisha."

 

Basudev Mahapatra

 
 

India’s Minister of State for Statistics and Programme implementation, Srikant Jena, came out heavily against Chief Minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik alleging that the government of Odisha and the Chief Minister himself were hand in gloves with lessees engaged in illegal mining since a decade or more.

Stating that the government of Odisha admitted to the fact of illegal mining by issuing notices and imposing fine on some of the lessees, Union Minister Jena demanded resignation of Naveen Patnaik as Chief Minister of Odisha on moral ground. Jena told, while talking to the media, that he and his party would go to people and build an atmosphere to compel Naveen Patnaik to resign from his post.

 

The case of illegal mining in Odisha is being investigated by Justice M B Shah Commission. The commission, during its first visit, has confirmed illegal mining in the state and questioned the integrity of the government and its bureaucracy by stating that “‘without a connivance of the Bureaucrats it (the irregularity of such magnitude) would not have been possible.” However, it didn’t give a clean chit to the political leaders either but said, “It requires investigation”.

Now, about a week back, Odisha government has served notices to some of the miners imposing fine on them for being engaged in illegal mining. After the allegations made by Union Minister Srikant Jena, this step, which might have been taken by Odisha Government as a face saving measure, seems to have become a trap for the government and a troublemaker for the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

While Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik didn’t speak anything in reply to accusations made by Union Minister Jena, his Minister in charge of Steel and Mines, Rajanikant Singh, denied to all the charges made by the Union Minister and said, the government is taking steps as per law.

“Government has issued notices to 103 mining lease holders and fined around Rs.67,900 crore,” said the Steel and Mines Minister. Among the companies served with notices are big private players like TATA and Essel Mining and government controlled bodies like OMC and OMDC.

Singh also rejected the remark made by Union Minister Jena where he mentioned that Odisha’s mining scam would be even bigger than Goa and Karnataka.

When asked why the State government so late in taking action, Singh put the blame on Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) and the union government of India. The Minister said, while it was the job of IBM to track and detect such irregularities, it failed in doing its job. And, the policy of union government allows the miners to raise 20% more than what they are allowed to.

“This has been going on for quite some time; all these exercise they take time. The inspections were carried out. The teams had conducted inspections and they had done analysis of excess productions of various mining lessees for last 10 years. And, almost 198 cases were detected and it’s not only Iron, it’s all ores – iron, manganese, bauxite, chrome, everything,” said the Secretary of Mines, Odisha, Rajesh Verma. In reply to the question – why the government hasn’t yet cancelled the mining leases even after obtaining so much of irregularities, the Secretary of Mines said, “Action has to be taken in accordance with law and we have to go step by step.”

In the meantime, the Union ministry of mines in a notification enforced an amendment saying, “Violation of any rules, other than rules under section 23C of the MMDR Act, within the mining lease area by a lease holder, shall not include illegal mining.”

Such an amendment raises the basic question – how and why raising minerals beyond the permitted limit is not illegal? Seems to be done in favour of mining companies engaged in illegal mining and to give them a relief from the fine imposed by Odisha government, this particular notification also questions the integrity of Union Ministry of Mines and its commitment to curb illegal mining.

It’s still in doubt if the fine imposed by Odisha Government on mine owners illegally raising minerals can be recovered or not. But it has been clear from the present blame game that the issue of illegal mining has only fuelled the battle for Power in Odisha.

 
 

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