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Odisha LoP seeks SIT probe into move to give bauxite mines to L & T

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jun 4:

Leader of Opposition in the Odisha Assembly, Narasingh Mishra, on Wednesday demanded a court-monitored special investigation team (SIT) probe into the state government’s move to recommend mining lease for Larsen and Toubro (L&T) Ltd despite after having rejected it way back in 2001.

Narasingh Mishra, Leader of Opposition
Narasingh Mishra, Leader of Opposition

“The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has lost its credibility after the shoddy probe into the chit fund scam in the state. Hence, I demand a court-monitored SIT probe into the entire episode either by High Court or Supreme Court,” Congress leader Narasingh Mishra demanded.

L&T was awarded prospecting license (PL) for Sijumali and Kutrumali bauxite mines in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts in 1992 with a pre-condition that it will go for value addition by setting up an alumina plant. In 1994, the company applied for mining lease (ML) after the expiry of PL without fulfilling the conditions following which the state government rejected the application in 2001, Mishra claimed in a press conference held here yesterday citing official documents.

The state government has initiated the process to award ML to L&T and the Director of Mines has been asked to prepare the documents on this, he said.

“In a letter written by the Additional Secretary in the Steel and Mines department Brundaban Behera to Director of Mines Deepak Mohanty, the former has sought details about the ML applied by L&T for one mine at Sijumali and two at Kutrumali amounting to 2263. 941 hectares. The Additional Secretary has mentioned in his letter that the government has taken a policy decision to recommend the three bauxite mines in favour of L&T. On what basis and in whose interest has the state government again initiated the process to recommend mines for the company?” the veteran Congress leader asked.

The company was issued a show cause notice as to why the ML should not be cancelled. As it did not provide satisfactory answers, the mining lease was cancelled. Moreover, the company did not raise any objections then, Mishra said.

Once an ML is rejected, the PL stands automatically rejected, he contended.

The NDA government at the Centre had made amendments in the MMDR Act. As per the new norms, all mining leases would be granted through the auction route. If any company had the PL, the state government can recommend ML in favour of that company.

“Now, the state government has initiated the process to recommend mines for L&T violating the norms. The state government has circumvented the auction route to help Vedanta, which has entered into an agreement with L&T, to get the bauxite mines as it was denied mines in Niyamgiri hills,” Mishra alleged.

Demanding an SIT probe, Mishra alleged, “People have drawn the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi about this and the chief minister has played a key role in it.”

Senior Congress leaders including Jagannath Patnaik, MLA Naba Kishore Das, Dr Lalatendu Mohapatra, Manoj Mohapatra, Sibananda Ray and Sulochana Das were present.