Reported by Paresh Kuanr
Keonjhar, May 27:
A number of truckers in Odisha’s mineral-rich Keonjhar district have alleged that an unholy nexus between the district administration and the powerful Truck Owners’ Association has reduced the mineral transportation into a murky business which is marked by extortion , bribery and blackmail.
Addressing a press conference here on Monday, the proprietor of Rashmi Transporter Rakesh Modi said the truck owners in the district, who had a roaring business earlier, have been very badly affected after a large number of mines closed down following a recent Supreme Court order.
“ At a time when the truckers are vying with one another to get a load from the only operative mine in Keonjhar zone, the Gandhamardan Iron Mine run by state owned Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) in Suakati, some office bearers of the Truck Owners Association are openly demanding Rs 25 per ton load from either the transporter or the buyer before the loading can take place,” he alleged.
Modi said only those truckers, who suurender to this extortion racket are being given loading slips while those who refuse to give in to such unjust demands or cannot afford to pay the bribe amount have been debarred.
Modi’s allegations indicate a huge money game involving certain bigwigs in the district truck owners’ association, one of the richest truckers’ body in the country.
Some truck owners who were present at the press conference said the extortion game was continuing right under the nose of the district administration which was either part of the racket or simply scared to take any action “ because of the protection offered by a number of influential politicians in Keonjhar , who have a big share in the murky game.”
“ These politicians, who have received huge amounts of black money as ‘donation’ from the bigwigs in the truckers’ association towards their election expenses, are backing this nasty practice,” a truck owner said.
Keonjhar collector Bishnu Prasad Sahoo, while conceding that not all is well with the mineral transport business in the district, promised to intervene and take ‘appropriate action in the matter’. Similarly the MD of the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) Saswat Mishra, who was the collector here earlier refused to comment on the matter saying it is up to the officers in the district to do the needful.