Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Oct 17:
The Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC), which submitted its final report on illegal mining in Odisha to the apex court today, has teared into the Odisha government and exposed the involvement of senior officials in the multi-crore mining scam, but as anticipated, stopped short of recommending a CBI inquiry.
“The senior officers of the State Government from the Chief Secretary downwards cannot escape responsibility for such wholesale and brazen violation of the Acts, Rules and guidelines and the directions of this Hon’ble Court and also points towards lax governance,” said the CEC in its report, a copy of which is with the odishasuntimes.com.
It said that it is most disturbing to note that the entire production without / in excess of the statutory approvals has been transported under the Transit Permits issued by the concerned officers of the State Government and that too after payment of royalty at the applicable rates.
The CEC criticised the government over the production of iron ore and manganese without environment clearance or beyond the period of environment clearance in the mining leases in Odisha.
During the years 2000-01 to 2010-11, a total quantity of 2130.988 lakh MT of iron and 24.129 lakh MT of manganese have been produced without environmental clearance / beyond environmental clearance in the state.
During the period from 2000-01 to 2010-11, each of the 14 lessees have produced more than 50 lakh MT of iron and manganese without / in excess of environmental clearances.
The 14 lessees, who have produced above 50 lakh MT of iron and / or manganese without / in excess of the environmental clearances include OMC Ltd., a Government of Odisha Undertaking, BPME Ltd., a Government of India Undertaking and companies belonging to some of the well known corporate groups such as Tata Group and Aditya Birla Group. The 14 lessees account for 72.83 % and 57.86 % respectively of such production of iron ore and manganese, said the report.
Each of the 9 lessees have produced between 25 lakh MT to 50 lakh MT of iron and manganese without / in excess of the environmental clearances. Each of the 13 lessees have produced between 10 lakh MT to 25 lakh MT of iron and manganese without / in excess of environmental clearance.
Each of the 36 lessees have produced up to 10 lakh MT of iron and manganese without / in excess of environmental clearances, and there are only 9 lessees who did not produce any iron or manganese without / in excess of the environmental clearances. The leases of such lessees were either not operating during the above period or the lease area was less than 5 ha. and therefore did not require environmental clearance, said the report.
The CEC, however, said that since the Odisha government has taken steps from the year 2011-12 onwards, it has recommended that it may be appropriate that 30% of the notional value of the iron and manganese produced by each of the lessees without / in excess of the environmental clearances may be directed to be recovered from the concerned lessees and with the explicit understanding that the concerned lessee as well as the officers will continue to be liable for action under the provisions of the respective Acts.
The compensation may be directed to be paid within a period of three months, said CEC.
“This Hon’ble Court may consider directing that in respect of the lessees who fail to file the affidavit and / or who do not deposit the compensation within the prescribed time period, (a) the mining operations in their mining leases will be suspended / continue to remain suspended and (b) such leases should be determined and thereafter will be disposed of / assigned through a transparent process to the highest bidder,” said the report.