September 24, 2015 3:31:25 am
The Rajasthan mining department officials — arrested last week by the Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly running a massive bribery racket — had resisted the central government’s transparency initiatives regarding allotment of mining leases.
Letters accessed by The Indian Express reveal that Ashok Singhvi, who headed the mines department and is one of those arrested, objected to the reform initiatives outlined in the Centre’s October 30 guidelines.
Singhvi specifically objected to the most important condition recommended by the guidelines — which strongly urged states to not allow mining in unspecified areas, and asked them to notify clear mining zones before inviting application for leases.
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The Centre mooted the guidelines following the report of the M B Shah commission on illegal mining, as well as several Supreme Court judgments calling for greater transparency in use of scarce national resources.
In response to a November 17 letter by the Union mining secretary Anup Pujari seeking states’ view on the guidelines, Singhvi argued that notifying mining areas was not feasible since no court had ever found any lease in non-notified areas illegal. He also contended that notifying areas could lead to illegal mining.
“Till date, (no action has been) termed illegal by any court of law on the ground of non-notified area. Now, notifying such areas will… lead to illegal mining during the time taken in notification,” Singhvi wrote Pujari on November 17. “Therefore, notifying non-notified areas at this stage does not seem desirable/feasible.”
His subordinate, Additional Director of Mines Pankaj Gehlot, who was also arrested by the ACB, wrote on November 5, “The Government of India guidelines of 30-10-2014 will virtually put a ban on new mining approvals, leading to revenue loss to the state government.”
Gehlot went on to underscore more problems likely to arise from the new guidelines, which mandated that the presence of a mineral resource had to be proved as per UNFC 1997 standards, before issuing notification for applications.
The United Nations International Framework Classification for Reserves/Resources – Solid Fuels and Mineral Commodities of 1997 (UNFC-1997) is an international UN mineral resource classification regime, put in place by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
“Presently, most applications are being processed on first come, first served basis. If these applications are returned on the basis of the new guidelines of the government of India, it will lead to unnecessary litigation,” Gehlot wrote. “(The UNFC-1997 requirement) will require excessive time and resources, which the department does not have.”
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