Odisha Sun Times Bureau/IANS
Bhubaneswar, July 26:
Leader of the Opposition in the Odisha Assembly Narasingh Mishra today demanded a CBI inquiry into the alleged corruption to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore in the Thakurani B mines in Keonjhar district.
Raising the issue in the Assembly through a special mention, Mishra said the extraction of iron ore from the Thakurani mines by Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) was in total violation of Rule 37 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation (MMDR) Act.
Accusing the government of showing undue favour to JSPL, Mishra said the mines was originally allotted to Sarada Mines, which later handed it over to JSPL in contravention of the law of the land. While Sarada Mines has not obtained any permission from either the state or central government for exporting minerals, JSPL has been merrily exporting the extracted ore to Chhattisgarh.
Moreover, while the law provides that there can be no crusher unit within a 40 km radius of the mines lease area, the company has set up a crusher unit very close to the mines.
“There is no doubt the state government has unduly favoured JSPL,” Mishra said. He said a CBI inquiry must be ordered to unravel the truth and punish those who are responsible.
Briefing newsmen in the Assembly premises, the senior Congress leader said; “I have raised the issue of large scale corruption to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore in the Thakurani –B mines. Sarada Mines handing over Thakurani-B mines to JSPL is a clear and well planned conspiracy for loot of iron ore”.
He said the Justice M.B. Shah Commission of Inquiry which is probing illegal mining in several states, during its visit to Odisha, had also found many irregularities in the operations of the Thakurani mines.
“A high level committee of the Steel and Mines department headed by its secretary had found that there were irregularities in it and had advised action. The then Steel and Mines minister Raghunath Mohanty had said in the Assembly that action was being taken against the guilty. But more than three years down the line, no action whatsoever has been taken,” rued Mishra.
The Bolangir MLA said the state government was aware of the loot and irregularities but preferred to remain silent about it.
“Interestingly, the state government has taken a peculiar stand of refusing permission to Jindal to shift the ore, which the company intended to transport to Chhattisgarh. The government decision has been challenged in the High Court by the Company. The government lawyer at the High Court is not presenting his arguments the way he should to protect the interests of the state”, alleged Mishra.
He said; “I fail to understand how it’s going to add value if the ore is exported to Chhattisgarh when this government has always been speaking of value addition.”
Mishra asked if the state government could hire lawyers from Delhi at whopping fees of Rs 25 lakh to defend thieves in the High Court, why it can’t now do so to prevent theft of minerals from the state.
The leader of the opposition called it a deliberate attempt by the state government to allow the ‘thieves’ to escape by taking a weak stand in the High Court and then say; “What we can do? The court has allowed it.”
On the other hand, Steel and Mines minister Prafulla Mallick told reporters that all information and clarifications sought by the Leader of the Opposition would be provided in the next 48 hours. “We have nothing to hide,” he said.
Reacting to the charges made against the company by the Leader of Opposition, a senior JSPL official, who did wish to be named, said JSPL’s procurement of iron ore and transport of the same had been completely legal at all times.
“JSPL has not received any notice from any government authority with regard to any alleged illegality,” he told IANS.
“JSPL has filed a writ petition against the refusal of the director of mines to transport the legally procured material. The matter is sub-judice. Therefore, JSPL does not wish to make any further comments in the matter,” he said.