Bhubaneswar, Jan 5:
Calling for an immediate and comprehensive investigation by the CBI into the massive mining scam in the state, senior Congress leader and former Minister Niranjan Patnaik has said the investigation must go beyond lease holders.
While the irregularities committed by lease holders, which are known legal entities, can be computed and accountability fixed on them, those engaged in mining outside lease hold areas and relinquished or abandoned mines have remained ‘nameless and faceless’ even after the Shah Commission report became public, Patnaik said.
“They have neither paid any royalty nor any income tax and there is no way they can be held accountable under either the Income Tax Act or under the Mining Rules. They are known in the public as ‘mining mafia’ and have not come under the scrutiny of the Shah Commission. Some of these individuals were arrested by the state police. But, now they are all on bail and happily enjoying their ill-gotten wealth generated by simple theft of iron ore,” the former PCC president said.
The CBI must investigate these ‘ring leaders’, who are actively funding political parties and hoping to play a big role in the next general elections and have thus emerged as a threat to democracy, the Congress leader said. A process to confiscate their ill-gotten wealth must also be set in motion, he said.
Patnaik dared the State Government to promulgate an ordinance to bring the wealth of the mining mafia under scrutiny to find out how they came to possess such huge wealth grossly disproportionate to their known sources of income and confiscate all the wealth for investment in Odisha’s social sector.
“The serious frauds office will also have to be involved at some stage since the money has been invested in real estate as well as for money laundering abroad,” he said.
The mining mafia, Patnaik said, was allowed to operate because the State Government allowed trading in minerals by third parties. Such large scale loot of Odisha’s mineral resources could not have taken place without political and bureaucratic patronage and the BJD Government should at least acknowledge the gigantic nature of the scam and initiate some corrective measure belatedly to restore back some of the lost wealth to the people of Odisha.
“There is a lot of merit in the argument that the CM has actually lost the moral legitimacy to continue in office as he failed to prevent such large scale loot of the mineral wealth that truly belongs to the people of Odisha. Now his silence and lack of forthrightness is bringing him under the shadow of corruption,” claimed the former PCC president.
The iron ore stolen by the mining mafia may be close to one lakh Crore and belong to the people of Odisha and therefore, CBI must investigate them, he said.
“Why is Naveen Babu silent on the subject? Is it that he does not agree with the Shah Commission findings that large scale irregularities and revenue loss took place under his watch as the CM for the last 15 years? Who is he trying to protect?” Patnaik asked.