Odisha, February 5, Abhijit Saha: The darkness in the face of state miners of Odisha can be clearly seen from the shutdown of mines in Karnataka and Goa following order from Supreme Court and report from Shah Commission.
The Shah Commission has knocked both the state government and the Centre for extensive illegal mining in Odisha happening since 1990 facilitated by some group of leading politicians, bureaucrats and the mining mafia. The Commission has suggested an inquiry by the CBI, into all cases where FIRs, have been filed by the police to disclose the group.
These mines have a combined turnover of Rs. 40,000 crore annually. So, there’s a question that hangs regarding the closure of these mines based of Shah Commission report over the miners and state government whose major portion of non-tax revenue is contributed by royalty and other levies on minerals.
According to the commission reports, the defaulted companies include SAIL, Tata Steel, Essel Mining, Serajuddin & Co. and Orissa Mining Corporation.
As miners have not cleared state government’s penalty notice and approached the revision tribunal of Union Mines Ministry that presently stayed the notice, state government has to decide whether to move to HC against the tribunal order. For now, the Union ministry of environment and forest has requested the state government to act strongly against the miners charged for violating laws and send show cause notices.
A senior officer of the state government said that it is difficult to execute the commission’s recommendations because such measures would create shortage of raw material for domestic steel units as well as create unemployment. The Union Commerce Ministry has also opposed the proposal to restrict export of iron ore on the plea of affecting foreign exchange earnings largely.
The industry circles feel that the Action Taken Report (ATR) prepared by committee of secretaries to be presented in Parliament along with commission report may take a middle path to avoid problems with domestic steel units. They believe in the ATR it may be suggested that actions may be taken against the illegal miners violating Environment Protection Act and filing case against them under section 15 and 19 of the Act, while allowing the mining companies to operate the lease. Also defaulters may be asked to deposit Net Present Value (NPV) for violating Forest Conservation Act and pay compensatory afforestation charge instead of shutting down operations.
The ATR may also invoke the Mineral Concession Rule, 1960, for not renewing mining leases which pending from years, and not to stop operations as suggested by Shah Commission.
In respect of the report of the Shah Commission the defensive mood of the state and centre can be guessed from the fact that the centre is defying to produce the panel’s report in the SC and the state is also refusing need for CBI enquiry in this regard. An analyst said that both the state and the centre are not willing to darken things by stopping mining operations completely or to introduce CBI enquiry as the general elections are underway.