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On a counter offensive against the Congress on the clearance to Jaiparkash Associates Limited (JAL) row,Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal on Sunday claimed that despite the state governments objections,the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had granted unilateral environmental clearance to the companys thermal power plant at Bagheri.
Dhumal,also addressed mediapersons – the second time this week – and rejected the Opposition charges of undue favours having been granted to the company and instead accused the previous Congress regime,particularly former chief minister Virbhadra Singh and former power minister Vidya Stokes of being soft towards Jaypee and erring government officials.
Sensing a vehement opposition to the thermal power plant of the company from local villagers and environmental groups,additional chief secretary (environment) during the BJP government had written a letter to the MoEF suggesting the setting-up of an expert panel of the ministry .The ministry was also appraised about a PIL pending in the High Court on the issue. Unfortunately,these objections was completely overlooked and company was given green signal for the plant,Dhumal said.
The Himachal Pradesh High Court has imposed a penalty of Rs 100 crore on the company and has ordered it to dismantle the thermal power plant allegedly set-up in violation of the environmental norms.
Dhumal on the other hand,said the BJP government had never given any sanction to JAL for its thermal power plant and it was only the previous Congress government,which,he claimed,sanctioned the cement plant at an undervalued cost of Rs 90 crore against the Rs 450 crore investment. He also accused the Congress of allowing the company to take over village common land.
To substantiate his charges against the earlier Congress government,Dhumal quoted file noting wherein,he said, Vidya Stokes (then power and environment minister) and then Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh had taken a lenient view on the culpability of officials of the HPSEB and HPPCB for granting an NOC to the company for the thermal power plant even though initially S P Vasudeva,member-secretary the HPPCB was placed under suspension. He wondered as how after such a lapse,the minister incharge and the chief minister could accept a verbal apology and regret expressed by the erring officers.
Dhumal hailed the High Court orders against the company and the setting-up of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) under Additional DGP (Vigilance) K C Sadyal. The name of the third member of the team has also been finalised. The government hopes that the SIT will complete the task fairly and recommend appropriate action against the officials,including those of the MoEF,who had granted environmental clearance despite the objections of the state government.
The chief minister also advised the Congress leaders to carefully read the HC judgment before pointing fingers at the BJP government.