Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal on Monday rejected Congresss demand for his resignation on moral grounds following high courts decision to impose a huge penalty on Jaiprakash Associates Limited (JAL). Dhumal hailed the courts verdict terming it as in line with BJP governments stand against the company and termed the orders as perhaps the first case of environmental justice
Congress cleared the companys proposal at a single-window authority headed by the chief minister on September 16,2004. A highly under-valued capital investment of Rs 90 crore was accepted against actual investment of over Rs 400 crore,beside allowing land diversion of nearly 325 bighas on July 9,2004, Dhumal told media persons. He added that the project was undervalued as it would not have required clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
He announced that action would be taken against the officers including the former Deputy Commissioner of Solan responsible for facilitating the cement project and later getting hired by the company for valued services after retirement. The retirements will not stop the registration of criminal cases against erring officer after an inquiry ordered by the high court, he added.
I have also asked for the report from the department on follow-up action against the erring officers in the light of February 25,2005 cabinet decision to impose a penalty of Rs 5 crore,and also initiating action against guilty officers, Dhumal said.
Dhumal said that Congress leaders were quick to react on the judgement without going through the order,most of the serious indictments and illegalities are related to the Congress regime – not the BJP government.
Giving chronological details,Dhumal said the MoU with the company for the cement plant was signed on July 9,2004 during the Congress regime and land acquisitions at Bagha site in Solan district started immediately.
The high court has come down heavily on the issue of the project cost of Rs 90 crore agreed by the Congress government vide letter no Ind. Dev F(34) Regu (L&M)545/2004-4012 dt 18.8.2004. This was a deliberate attempt at fraud by the the company which tried to bypass the MoEF and the government pro-actively helped, he alleged.
Regarding land diversion (details of which were not even mentioned in the MOU),the High Court had said in its order Can the state act like a mafia and take over possession of village common land and hand it over to a private company?
Dhumal said that the issue had come up before the Cabinet on BJPs return to power and had taken a similar stand against the company. A penalty of Rs 5 crore was recovered for violations and illegal occupation of village common land. Since huge commercial activity had started in the area after the plant was set-up and several families had started job ventures,the BJP government opted to impose a penalty and taking action against erring officers, Dhumal said adding that this was also the stand that the high court had taken in addition to dismantling of the captive thermal power plant.
When asked if the state government will blacklist the company for blatant violation of law,Dhumal ruled out such a possibility. There is no question of blacklisting Jaypee as the court has not asked it and this extreme step would mean resorting to the practice of Islamic law, he added.
Sushant gives Dhumal 15
days to resign
Shimla: Rajan Sushant,the suspended BJP MP started an open tirade against Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and his government on Monday and said that the high courts verdict on Jaiprakash Associates Limited (JAL) is complete vindication of his stand on Dhumals government. Addressing a press conference,Sushant contested Dhumals claim that it was the Congresss fault and said,The BJP government has gone beyond what Congress did for the company. BJP allowed the setting-up of a cement plant and bailing out the company for just Rs 5 crore for Rs 500 crore in benefits. The MP did not spare Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association president Anurag Thakur and alleged that he had gained huge advantages from the company to promote himself and organised tournaments with the companys help. Let there be a CBI inquiry into the entire matter and a list of those politicians and officers whose kin got jobs in JAL, he said.
Sushant said,If the chief minister does not resign within 15 days,I will start a mass movement to expose corrupt deals of the government and also issue a list of people who were getting benefits from the company. I have lots of facts and documents on the irregularities allowed in the cement and hydro projects of JAL. He also accused the previous Congress government of committing grave irregularities.
More trouble in store for company
Himachal Pradesh High Court judgement which imposed a record fine of Rs 100 crore on Jaiprakash Associates Limited (JAL) for environmental violations and use of deceitful means to get a cement plant and thermal power project approved,may be just the beginning of troubles for the company.
Congress and the BJP have already started the blame game,but an NGO which fought a lengthy legal battle for the people affected by the project has decided to continue the struggle.
The next headache for JAL could be its newly commissioned Karcham Wangtoo (1,000 MW project) in Kinnaur,wherein the government has already confirmed land encroachments and non-payment of compensations to villagers affected by the project. The earlier Congress government had shown favour by signing a supplementary agreement to extend the date for commissioning of the project.
Joining the issue Nalagarh-based Him Parivesh Environment Protection Society – one of the petitioners in the writ petition against JAL,said The high courts order is a landmark. Rahul Saxena,member of Him Dhara,an environment action group which has been providing technical and research support to Him Parivesh said,This will give momentum to the peoples fight against pollution and lack of enforcement of environmental laws the Baddi Barotiwala Nalagarh Industrial area.
Meanwhile,JAL said that it will not go ahead with the captive thermal plant and has full faith in the Indian judicial system. The company is studying the order of the high court and its implications,both legal as well as factual. The future course of action will be decided in accordance with constitutional provisions, the company said.