Odisha Mining Scam: Centre sings BJD tune, says CBI probe not needed

Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Aug 27:

The Narendra Modi-led NDA government is unlikely to implement the recommendation of Justice Shah Commission for a CBI inquiry into the mammoth mining scam in Odisha.

Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Minister, Steel & Mines
Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Minister, Steel & Mines

The statements made by the Union Steel and Mines minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Union Mines secretary Anup Kumar Pujari in a press conference here today gave ample indication that the newly formed NDA government is averse to a CBI probe into the Rs 60, 000 crore mining scam in the state.

The Commission has strongly recommended a CBI probe after observing that the law was made helpless in Odisha while the bureaucrat-politician-mining mafia nexus plundered the people of its valuable and irreplaceable natural resources.

However, the Union government is willing to repose its faith in the vigilance inquiry ordered by the Odisha government into the mining scam.

“ The Central government does not ask anybody to undertake CBI inquiry. The question is whether the Central government will order a CBI inquiry. No. While Shah commission has recommended a CBI inquiry into the illegal mining, the Odisha government in its action taken report has stated that there is no need for a CBI inquiry as it is already investigating the matter. The state government has also said that there is no illegal mining going on…..whatever has already happened has happened, the inquiry is on….so the matter rests there,” said the Union Mines secretary Pujari.

He also said that Odisha government has argued that handing over the case to CBI would hamper its ongoing inquiry, which has made a steady progress.

When asked about the Centre’s stand on the issue, he said, “In a federal structure, the Centre and states should work with proper coordination. So, when the state government has said that they have been conducting probe into the matter through a state agency, we should consider it.”

Union minister Tomar with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik
Union minister Tomar with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik

Reacting to a question over the involvement of Central agencies including IBM, Railway and ports in the mining scam, the secretary chose not to respond and said they will look into the matter.

The Union Steel and Mines minister Tomar said the action taken report (ATR) on the Shah Commission’s recommendations has already been tabled in the Parliament and the Centre is acting on it to maintain transparency in the mining sector.

The Steel and Mines ministry appears to have ignored a crucial part of the Shah Commission report, which stated clearly that the state police and other state authorities, which suddenly started filing cases when the inquiry by Shah Commission became imminent, are incapable of carrying out a thorough probe and catching the powerful but guilty parties. The report also suggested that these cases have been filed only as a desperate defensive move designed to thwart a possible CBI inquiry.

“Since there is involvement of mighty lessees, big traders of the state and from outside the state, political entities and officers of higher ranks it will not be possible for state police to find facts and realities and there would be no justice for the quantum of illegalities that took place.”

Incidentally the Shah Commission has recommended a CBI inquiry not only into illegal mining, but also the attendant railway freight scam and linked evasion of excise duty by the mining companies.

The report says, “All modes of illegal mining a are being committed in the state of Odisha. There is a complete disregard and contempt for law and lawful authorities on the part of many among emerging breed of entrepreneurs, taking undue advantage of country’s natural non renewable assets and resources for export earnings.”

Observers feel the stance taken by the Union minister and secretary of the Steel & Mines ministry on the issue of CBI probe into the Odisha mining scam smacks of a political deal between the Biju Janata Dal and the NDA because nothing else can explain their defence of the indefensible.

Now the hope of a CBI inquiry into one of the biggest scams in the country’s history rests solely on the Supreme Court of India, they said.

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