Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Jan 27:
With the noose in the form of the Shah Commission report tightening around its neck, a desperate Naveen Patnaik government has now asked collectors of five mineral rich districts in the state to file cases against miners, who have been found to have violated the Environment Protection Act but have managed to escape prosecution so far.
“This is to say that this department is yet to receive any information on the filing of prosecution for violation of EP Act by the miners. You are requested to immediately file prosecution and submit copies of complaints filed in the criminal court to the undersigned without delay. The case should be monitored personally by you,” said RK Sharma, secretary of forest and environment department in his letter to the district collectors of Sundargarh, Jajpur, Bolangir, Rayagada and Keonjhar.
According to forest and environment department sources, the government has decided to file prosecution against 119 miners in these districts.
On Saturday, it may be noted, the state government had asked the collectors of Keonjhar, Sundargarh and Mayurbhanj for details of the cases filed in the local SDJM/JMFC courts against miners for onward transmission to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), which has asked the state to initiate action against 55 miners.
In its report, even the Shah Commission has noted that the government had filed the bulk of the cases on the eve of the Commission’s visit to the state.
The report notes that the state police and other state authorities, which suddenly filed cases when the inquiry by Shah Commission became imminent, are incapable of carrying out a thorough probe and catching the powerful but guilty parties. It suggests that these cases have been filed only as a ruse to prevent a CBI inquiry.
“Since there is involvement of mighty lessees, big traders of the state and from outside the state, political entities and officers of higher ranks, it will not be possible for state police to find facts and realities and there would be no justice for the quantum of illegalities that took place,” said the report of the Commission advocating a CBI inquiry into the scam.
On its part, the MoEF, which had remained silent throughout the period when the illegal mining took place, has suddenly woken up and started ordering the state government to take action against the miners.
The captive miners, which are set to face prosecution are Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), Ferro Alloys Corporation (FACOR), Odisha Minerals Development Company (OMDC) and the state run miner Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC). Besides, the mines of SN Mohanty, Pabodh Mohanty, BPME, Patnaik Minerals, Kalinga Mining Corporation etc will face prosecution.
The ministry had asked the state government to initiate action against the mining companies named in the Shah Commission’s report for violating environment laws. The commission, in its report, noted 94 mines were operating without environment clearance (EC) while 96 others obtained delayed ECs.