Whistle-blower’s crusade against mining mafia

Arun Srivastava

Even a brusque caution from senior minister Sarju Roy to have the renewal of mining rights to companies investigated by some professional agency for wrong-doing, as the existing procedures are violation of court orders, the Bihar government has preferred to sit idle an allow the scamsters to have an field day.
A couple of months back the Jharkhand government had to face a disconcerting revolt by Roy, who had walked out of the cabinet meeting. Strongly objecting to the renewal of mining contracts he had observed; “I don't want to go to jail". What was really shocking was the cabinet had earlier decided to extend the mining rights to these companies, notwithstanding it had received objection from activists and others.
Roy, who was insistent in the cabinet meeting that the decision should be amended and the mining department should consult the law department, walked out of the meeting once the government refused to pay heed to his objections. If the sources are to be believed, the cabinet had already signed the order. At this Roy retorted, “if the Constitution can be amended, then why not cabinet decisions? Once the CBI starts investigating then violations would be exposed.”
It is really intriguing how a state government could prefer to indulge in the same nature of crime for which the former chief minister of the state has been jailed for his involvement in the scam. This nature of action by the government makes it explicit that the ministers and officials are not scared of the judiciary and the CBI probe.
Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda was sentenced three years in jail for corruption in a coal block allocation case. Special Judge Bharat Parashar also sent Koda's close aide Vijay Joshi, former Coal Secretary HC Gupta, Jharkhand's then Chief Secretary AK Basu, to jail for three years.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs. 25 lakh each on Koda and Joshi. It also imposed Rs. 1 lakh fine each on Gupta and Basu. The court had on December 13 held the private company Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd (VISUL) guilty of criminal conspiracy and cheating under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The court's order came in the case related to Jharkhand's Rajhara North coal block allocation to VISUL.
What was most shocking was Gupta, who was chairman of the screening committee, had allegedly concealed the facts from then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who at that point of time headed the coal ministry.
Once again the officers who have been close to the mining lobby have started raising the issue of revenue loss to the state government due to the delay in the extension of iron ore mining rights. According to them, the government would lose hundreds of crores every year due to this development. Behind the façade of losing revenue, the officers were creating a situation so that the BJP chief minister could help the mining companies.
These officers and their political masters have swindled the state exchequer of an amount not less than Rs 3,600 crores. Though the scam was going on for some time, no effort was made to grab the culprit.
Minister Roy unravelled how the district mines officer had served the interest of the mines owner by reducing the penalty slapped on them by the predecessor. The earlier officer had imposed a fine of Rs 6,300 crores on the mine owners. But the incumbent official Kamleshwari Das reduced it to Rs 2,700 crores. Though the official slashed the fine, he could not wipe out the fact that the owners were involved in revenue theft. It is really intriguing how a bureaucrat could usurp the powers of a minister, who under the rules is the only person to pass such order. Obviously there has been a deep connivance between the operators, politicians and bureaucrats.
The government claims to have ordered a probe, but astonishingly it has refused to take action even to suspend the official found of wrong doing. The government is said to be waiting for the report of the senior mining official for taking action. It nevertheless makes it clear that the Jharkhand’s BJP government is not serious to punish the culprit.
Giving vent to his anguish and shock, Roy also resigned as parliamentary affairs minister. The most classic action of chief minister Raghubar Das was to accede to his request and relieve him of his responsibilities as parliamentary affairs minister.
Meanwhile, close aides of Roy reveal that he may launch a democratic movement for pressuring the Raghubar Das government to act against the culprits. He has been a major petitioner in the fodder scam, in undivided Bihar, and once again he may approach the judiciary for ordering a probe into the coal mining scam. (IPA)

Sunday, 20 May, 2018