The Rajasthan government has cancelled 601 of the 653 mining leases that it issued when the mining department was helmed by IAS officer Ashok Singhvi, who was arrested last month for allegedly running a multi-crore bribery racket.
The government claimed “transparency and public interest” as the motive behind the move, but the opposition Congress described it as an admission of guilt and called for the Chief Minister’s resignation.
The cancellation of the leases, announced by the chief minister’s office late Saturday night, came after a special review committee constituted October 5 to look into the matter submitted its report. “Of the 19,000 applications, about 4 per cent were processed under the first come-first served basis which appears irregular,” the initial report of the review committee found.
“However, the CM has acted tough without even waiting for the committee to submit an interim report,” a statement from the CMO said. CM Vasundhara Raje also recommended a Lokayukta probe into the matter, which has been approved by Governor Kalyan Singh.
The 601 leases were among the 653 leases that were issued by the government between November 2014 and January 12, 2015 — just before the Centre effected the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015, which ended discretionary bases of awarding leases and made auction the sole method of allotment. The leases are already being reviewed by the CAG.
The opposition Congress, which has been demanding a CBI probe into the matter and had recently met the CVC and the CAG, described the government’s move as an admission of guilt. “It is a face-saving exercise necessitated by the Congress’s sustained campaign,” state Congress president Sachin Pilot told The Indian Express.
Former CM Ashok Gehlot said the cancellation was a knee-jerk reaction under Congress pressure. Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said the “fraud, maleficence and loot of public exchequer” stands completely exposed.
Parnami hit back at the opposition: “Why did Pilot not ask for Gehlot’s resignation when he had allotted mines to his relatives in Jodhpur during the Congress government?” he said in a statement.
— With inputs from Delhi