While it has been reported that suspended IAS officer Ashok Singhvi—arrested for allegedly running a massive bribery racket in the mines department—had been acting arbitrarily by not sending departmental files for even the mining minister’s approval, an Indian Express investigation suggests otherwise.
In at least two cases, involving relaxation of mining regulations for two major cement companies, Singhvi had sent the files to Mines Minister Raj Kumar Rinwa. Rinwa had gone through them, following which a letter of intent was issued to the companies prematurely.
A day after Singhvi was arrested, Rinwa had told a local newspaper that the officer used to act arbitrarily and never send him any files for approval.
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Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria also said Sunday, “Rinwa was not receiving all files from the mines department… what can a minister do if he does not receive files from his top secretary?”
The two cases mentioned above pertain to granting lease for limestone mines in Jaisalmer, exceeding the maximum 10 square kilometre area limit allowed, according to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act.
Rinwa wrote “do as per rules” along with his signature, after which the mining department headed by Singhvi hurriedly issued Letters of Intent to these companies before even receiving approval from the central government.
Documents accessed by The Indian Express show that in March this year, the Directorate of Mining had brought the issue to Singhvi’s notice in an internal communication dated March 13, 2015.
“(Regarding Lafarge India and Shree Cement), it appears that prior approval, under section 6(1)B, from Government of India was not obtained before issuing Letter of Intent,” Mining Engineer (Inspection) N S Shaktawat had observed.
The Directorate had flagged the area limit issue —- pertaining to mines of these companies—-to Singhvi on November 28, 2014.
While the files, duly signed by Singhvi and Rinwa, were sent for central approval in the third week of December, the mining department hurriedly issued letters of intent to these companies in the second week of December.
The LoI were expedited to avoid the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Ordinance 2015 issued in January, which brought in the system of auction as against allocation, department sources said.
When contacted, Rinwa said: “Yes, we had sought relaxation from the central government for these two cases.”
He could not recall whether the relaxation was received or not.
Meanwhile, Kataria on Sunday said that Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had prior information about the ACB raids on mining department officials, but evaded questions on whether the action was carried out at the behest of the PMO.
“Raje and my office were aware of the entire process of raids by the ACB… we had been receiving complaints in this regard for the last two months. Based on these complaints, ACB sleuths started tapping phones, and when they became aware of the deal, raids were conducted,” Kataria told reporters here.