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Odisha: Fate of probe into mining scams hangs in the balance

Published : May 27, 2019, 6:48 am IST
Updated : May 27, 2019, 6:48 am IST

The OPCC leaders, who were very vocal on the chit fund scam and bayed for the blood of the Patnaik government over the issue, have also kept mum.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik (Photo: PTI)
 Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik (Photo: PTI)

Bhubaneswar: With no political parties raising the issue of corruption and irregularities in Odisha during the campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls, apprehensions are being raised if culprits will ever be brought to book.

Probes into the Rs 10,000-crore chit fund scam and Rs 3 lakh crore mining scam have slowed down in the last couple years, raising doubts about a tacit understanding among the leaders.

Although the BJP leaders, including party president Amit Shah, made a cosmetic reference about the scams in one of his several rounds of campaign in the state, subsequent praise by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Naveen Patnaik in connection with the management of cyclone Fani, has raised doubts if the BJP would really continue to put pressure on the investigating agencies to expedite the probe process.

A dozen of BJD leaders, including some MPs, MLAs and state ministers, patronised the chit fund scam. Similarly, some influential BJD leaders and bureaucrats, who allegedly extended patronisation to the mining scam continue to enjoy their freedom.

The Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) leaders who were very vocal on the chit fund scam and bayed for the blood of the Naveen Patnaik government over the issue, have also kept mum in both chit fund scam and mining scam.

Although Justice MB Shah Commission of Inquiry had in its report to the Union government strongly recommended a CBI probe and despite the previous Manmohan Singh approving the report, the Modi government did not take a firm stand on it.

The earlier stand of the Modi government was that the CBI probe into Odisha mining scam would affect the vigilance probe undertaken by the Odisha government. This stand had then baffled the state BJP leaders and grassroots workers who questioned the integrity of vigilance.

The CEC, in its interim report, had revealed that a large number of mines operated in Odisha after the expiry of mining lease period on the provision of deemed extension of mining lease as no decision was taken on application filed by the lease-holders for renewal of the leases.

It found that at least 163 mining leases operated without the requisite approvals under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980; environmental clearances, Air and Water Act or approved mining plans.

The CEC also found that out of the 596 mines, as many as 307 mines consisted of either wholly or partly forest areas.

The Odisha government, in its reply furnished to National Mines Tribunal (NMT) in 2013 had admitted the illegalities committing in mining activities and stated that it had slapped Rs 65,000 crore penalty on 196 mine owners who allegedly indulged in illegal and over-extraction of minerals, mainly iron ore. Challenging the state government’s decision to impose penalty, many mines owners have gone to the court.

However, the state government’s lack of seriousness to pursue the case has resulted in a paltry recovery of the penalty.

The probe into the Odisha chit fun scam seems to have been put on shelf. In the last couple of years, the agency has not arrested any individual.

Tags: naveen patnaik, mining scams