Bhubaneswar, Dec 25:
Former Minister and senior Congress leader Niranjan Patnaik has asked the State Government to hand over the investigations into the mining scam to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) without any further delay. He was reacting to media reports on the contents of Justice MB Shah Commission of Inquiry set up by the Central Government to inquire into large scale irregularities in mining operations in different states.
“The State Government had taken a stand that the mining scam is under investigation by the Shah Commission. Now that the Commission has given its findings, the state Government must implement the recommendations of the Commission and write to the Central Government to notify a CBI probe.”
Dubbing the mining scam “the biggest corruption case in the history of Odisha”, the former PCC chief slammed the state Government for being in a perpetual state of denial on the mining scam while claiming to be the cleanest Government. “How can such huge loot take place, if the Government was indeed honest/” he asked.
“The BJD Government benefitted from the disclosure of Shah Commission report on Karnataka and Goa and orchestrated all resources at its disposal to waylay the Shah Commission. Many legal luminaries appeared before the Commission on behalf of the mining lobby to advance many factitious arguments. I am happy that the Commission was not impressed,” Patnaik said.
A judicial commission is not a substitute for a proper and thorough investigation by a competent investigating agency. The state Government had been claiming that investigation into the mining scam by the state vigilance was adequate. The Shah Commission’s indictment establishes a clear vote of no confidence on the investigation carried out by the Vigilance under the control of the Chief Minister. The investigation by the vigilance has been a complete white-wash.
On the request of the Andhra Pradesh Government, the CBI had investigated illegal mining by the Reddy brothers of Bellary who continue to languish in jail. The same allegations have been made in Odisha and now confirmed by the Shah Commission. But, unlike the Reddy brothers, no high and mighty has been arrested in Odisha. “How did such a huge scam take place without people in power coming to know, conniving or benefitting? Who is the Chief Minister trying to protect and why?” asked Patnaik.
Even the State Government has admitted to illegal mining and has issued notices to mining companies for recovery of nearly Rs 2 lakh crore just to hoodwink the public. How much money has been recovered by the farce? The State Government thought such notices would establish their honest intent before the Shah Commission, but has been rightly fobbed off. Even the clever tactic of mining companies agreeing to the creation of a corpus fund of Rs 100 crore on the suggestion of the Commission for helping the affected local community did not prevent the Commission from finding out the obvious truth.
“Now that the last line of defence pending judicial enquiry has been breached, where is the scope for a shred of doubt on the need for an impartial investigation to fix accountability?” he questioned.
Large scale illegalities happened because the State Government had closed its eyes and aided the process actively by granting trading license, license for third party stock-yard and transit permit. The Shah Commission has only visited leasehold areas and reported on violation of mining regulations by mine owners. But, the CBI must also investigate large scale loot from non-lease hold areas and non-functional mines by the mining mafia, basically thieves with earth movers. People with political affiliation with all major political parties were involved and many of them are well known and yet they have not faced a thorough probe. The mining mafia continues to fund political parties and have naturally received political protection. They will utilize more of this money in the next election unless they are stopped by a thorough CBI investigation as has happened in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
“I see a threat to democracy from such huge amount of slush money. I once again reiterate my demand quite unequivocally that the State Government should order a CBI investigation forthwith,” Patnaik said.