While Congress leader and Central Minister
Srikant Jena demanded immediate resignation of Naveen Patnaik as the Chief
Minister, few other Congress leaders like the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee
President Niranjan Patnaik and BJP Vice President, Odisha Unit, Ashok Sahu
reiterated their demand for a CBI probe into the whole affair of mining
irregularities in Odisha.
Even after all these demands and a direct
accusation by the Central Minister of Statistics and Programme
implementation Srikant Jena, the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is tight
lipped to reply to any of the questions raised against him and the so
called transparency of the government led by him. And, the silence of
Naveen Patnaik raises lot more questions than what have been raised by
leaders of opposition parties.
Mining outside the lease hold areas
without any formal approval and without forest and environmental
clearance is the major irregularity in Odisha mining sector that has
been continuing at least since last one decade. And, when it comes to
forest clearance and approval under environmental protection act, Chief
Minister Naveen Patnaik himself was the forest and environment Minister
for seven years, from May 2004 to May 2011. Now, who will give an answer
to the basic question – how such violation of Forest and Environment
Laws went unnoticed for such a long period? And, who are those
responsible for the gross negligence that opened up opportunities for
some mining companies to dig out minerals illegally?
It’s not that the government
couldn’t notice the violation of laws by big mining players who are now
served with notices by the government. In January 2006, Essel Mining was
given a notice by OPCB’s Keonjhar regional office to close its screening
plants inside the forest area running without mandatory environmental
clearance. In spite of such a notice, the operation didn’t stop and no
further action was initiated by the concerned department. Why?
Ironically, the ministry of Forest and Environment was then under the
The other issue is about excess mining in
the lease hold areas given for mining. How the Department of Mines and
the concerned officials deputed for regular monitoring couldn’t know
about the excess mining and how could the affair continue for long 10
years? However, it’s not lessee only who should be solely blamed for
this irregularity but the officials in charge of monitoring the
various mines are equally responsible for this. Even during the
first visit to inquire into mining Justice M B Shah himself hinted at
strong bureaucratic link in the whole issue of illegal mining saying
that “without a
connivance of the Bureaucrats it (the scam of such magnitude) would not
have been possible”.
What step the government of
Odisha initiated after getting such an indication from Justice M B Shah?
No action against any senior bureaucrat has yet been initiated except
some subordinates and small officials being sacrificed. Even, while
imposing fine and serving notices to the companies, why simultaneous
steps against the erring officials are not taken?
The fine imposed by Odisha
government on the errant companies amounts over 70,000 crore rupees.
Leave apart the real magnitude of the scam, which Srikant Jena imagines
to be of 4 lakh crores, an irregularity of 70,000 crore rupees is worth
enough for a CBI probe. And, a probe by CBI can only track the
involvement of bureaucrats, senior officials and political leaders in
the illegal mining and bring them to book. But, in spite of several
demands for a CBI probe, why the government of Odisha is not going for
it when it would largely help in re-establishing the transparent image
of the government and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik as well?
One can't expect
all these questions when Chief Minister prefers to stay mute on the