In a damning report, the high powered Justice M.B. Shah Commission has has severely indicted both the Centre and the Odisha Government on illegal mining of iron and manganese ores, flagged Rs 60,000 crore of illegal iron ore mining in Odisha and asked the State Government to recover the money from miners “as early as possible“… The Commission has also found large scale violation of environment and forest laws, rules and notifications…
The Justice M.B. Shah Commission’s report, which runs into five voluminous parts, was recently brought before the Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Cabinet has asked a Committee of Secretaries to formulate an action taken report, which along with the Shah Commission report, will be tabled in Parliament, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters. He refused to divulge the details of the report, saying, “We have got a report. It is a voluminous report. It is the first report, and I think it is in 4 or 5 volumes.
“We are asking a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) to sit together and draw up the action taken report (ATR). The report of the Shah Commission, appointed under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, must be placed before Parliament together with an action taken report. The ATR will be drafted by a CoS and then the Cabinet will take a final view on that.” The Commission has severely indicted both the Centre and the Odisha Government on illegal mining of iron and manganese ores and has asked the State Government to recover over Rs 59,203 crore from the miners.
It has also recommended granting all future mining leases via auction route only. This includes mines where leases are not renewed and are operating under deemed extension route or which are coming for first, second or third renewal, the Commission said. “All modes of illegal mining” are being carried out in the State and “it appears that law has been made helpless because of its systematic non-implementation”, it has said. The Commission has also recommended using the recovered amount for the development of two districts, Keonjhar and Sundergarh, “which are badly affected by illegal excess mining”. The Commission has also found large scale violation of environment and forest laws, rules and notifications.
Out of 192 mining leases of iron and manganese ores in the State, “130 lessees are/were noted to be doing production without lawful authority” in violation of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notifications 1994 and 2006. Moreover, 94 mines were found to be operating without environment clearance (EC), while 96 obtained delayed ECs, the Commission said. “Overall, 109 mining leases are/were working under deemed extension and doing production in violation of EIA, 1994 and 2006.” According to the Commission, iron ore worth over Rs 45,453 crore and manganese ore worth over Rs 3,089 crore has been extracted “illegally and without lawful authority” by the miners in Odisha in violation of EC conditions alone.
It has also traced freight evasion cases by iron ore exporters, who move the mineral under domestic movement category by showing false excise certificates and recommended that the Railways should ask CBI to investigate the cases. For movement of iron ore, the Railways has two tariff structures — domestic (having lower tariffs) and other than domestic (having higher tariffs). By 2010-11, charges for domestic movement of iron ore was one-fifth of that of other than domestic. According to the Commission, the Railways has informed that notices have been sent to 14 companies for recovery of Rs 1,874 crore on account of freight evasion.
Noting that the Odisha Government has sent 146 show cause notices to mining lease holders for excessive production between 2000-01 and 2009-10, the Commission said, “it is apparent that there must be unlawful mining… Value of the unlawful extraction of iron and manganese ores comes to Rs 59203,33,13,342 (i.e about Rs 59,203 crore).
“Let the State Government recover the said amount by finalising the proceedings on the basis of the notices as early as possible and use the said amount for the development of the two districts, namely, Keonjhar and Sundargarh, which are badly affected by illegal excess mining.”
– The Hindu