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Govt’s double standard leaves tribal mining officer in the lurch

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Reported by Paresh Kuanr

Keonjhar, April 29:

The Odisha government’s double standard in dealing with mining officials has angered the local tribal community here.

In a stark case of gross injustice, a tribal official of the mining department, who was suspended by the government for revoking the suspension order against a mine, is yet to be reinstated even though other officials who did the same have been either left untouched or reinstated in their positions.iron-ore-mining-1

It is necessary to go through the details of the case to understand how the state government has been adopting a discriminatory attitude in the case of the suspended tribal mining officer.

In  March 2013, when the state government was in the dock over rampant illegal mines in the state. chief minister Naveen Patnaik had ordered the suspension of the deputy director of mines (DDM) at Joda, Ballav Charan Naik for allegedly showing undue favour to a company called the  Rashmi Metaliks.

Earlier, Nayak had suspended the trading license of the company on charges of various irregularities in mineral transactions. The company challenged naik’s order in the Odisha High Court and managed to get the court’s order for  the reconsideration of the action taken by the DDM on behalf of the state government.

Naik who was then the DDM, Joda had no other option than to revoke the suspension on the comapny’s trading license, especially after he failed to get any response from the state mining department despite seeking its opinion in the matter vide letter no 6562/20.10.2012.

Naik revoked the suspension order against the compay on November 16, 2012, after imposing a fine of Rs 25, 000/- only, to escape  contempt notice from the High Court.

The Mining department had no problems with the DDM’s action for the next 5 months i.e. until March 2013.

During the hearing by Justice MB Shah Commission in February 2013
in Ahmedabad,  the Commission asked the state government to explain why 
it did not go to the Supreme Court against the state High Court’s observations on Rashmi Metaliks.

In a hasty act of white wash, the director of mines re-suspended the company’s trading license on march 7, 2013 and suspended DDM Naik on March
25, 2013 . Naik’s  position as DDM was handed over to a mining officer, Mr Bishnupad Rout against whom a vigilance case is still pending.

Later, the DDM at Koida, Satyanand Sahu was transferred and posted as DDM, Joda on July12, 2013.

It is worth  mentioning here that the same DDM,  Satyanand Sahu had also revoked the suspension of Rashmi Metalik’s trading license in accordance with
the High Court order during his incumbency at Koida.

On July 18, 2013, Rashmi Metalik obtained another order from the High Court in which the court categorically said that the director of Mines had no authority to direct the DDM for suspension of any trading license.

The Odisha govt which had been chastised earlier by the Shah Commission, took no time to file a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court against the High Court order.

But the Supreme Court dismissed the state government’s SLP on February 3, 2014 and directed the state government to go by the observations of the High Court.

Rashmi Metaliks’ counsel at the apex court was BJD MP and senior lawyer Pinaki Misra.

Soon after the apex court verdict, Satyanand Sahu, the DDM at Joda, revoked the suspension of license of Rashmi Metaliks on  February 6, 2014 and permitted the company to conduct its business freely.

But Ballav Charan Naik, the suspended Joda DDM is till waiting for reinstatement.

Meanwhile, the Odisha Administrative Tribunal, responding to Naik’s appeal, has said there was no reason why the suspension order against him can not be revoked.

The native tribal people in the district are annoyed over  the injustice meted out to an officer belonging to their community. 

“An honest officer is punished for no fault at his end while others who have done exactly the same thing are rewarded. Is Ballav Naik paying the price for being a tribal ? ” asked a visibly angry Birabar Naik, a leading adivasi leader of Keonjhar district.