The Union Cabinet on Thursday referred the MB Shah Commissions report on illegal mining in Orissa to a committee of secretaries to scrutinise the report,which has indicted the Orissa government for failing to contain illegal mining leading to a colossal financial loss of about Rs 60,000 crore to the exchequer.
The Cabinet,which met under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,discussed the inquiry panels report and decided to refer it to the CoS for submitting a report within two months said finance minister P Chidambaram. The CoS to be headed by cabinet secretary Ajit Seth is expected to furnish a blueprint detailing steps needed to contain unlawful mining in Orissa,which have assumed endemic proportions, a source said.
The commission,in its report,has held unlawful mining in Orissa as one of the biggest ever seen by it and has strongly suggested that this is an apt case for being handed over to the CBI for a thorough probe. Pointing out that illegal extraction of iron ore has led to the exchequer losing about Rs 59,203 crore,it said it appeared that so far miners enjoyed paying meagre royalty and pocketing windfall profits.
However,the state is reluctant to ask the CBI for a probe arguing that its administrative and police machinery is adequately geared up to do so. However,the panel wants the FIRs filed by the police to be handed over to the CBI.
Of the over 185 mining leases of iron and manganese ores in Orissa,the commission said,over 110 were functioning without lawful authority by violating green laws. It is learnt to have recommended the Naveen Patnaik-led government should suspend mining operations in over 50 mines along the Baitarani river in Balasore district besides review their green clearances.
Holding that iron ore mines in Joda and Koira areas have witnessed serious violations,the Shah Commission said while 92 mines were operating without green clearance,a similar number have got delayed environmental clearance. Observing that there are huge number of iron ore mines operating in violation of Environment Impact Assessment notifications of 1994 and 2006,the inquiry panel said over 90 such mining leases are functional under presumed extensions or in common parlance called deemed extensions.
Detecting massive freight evasion by iron ore exporters,the commission has asked it to entrust the CBI to investigate the matter. The Railways says it has served show-cause notice to 14 firms to recover over Rs 8,000 crore.