A controversy has erupted over a letter written by the Russian Consul General in Kolkata to Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das complaining against BJP MLA Dhulu Mahato.
The letter accuses Mahato, MLA from Baghmara in Dhanbad district, of obstructing work of a Russian company engaged with Coal India subsidiary Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) in his area while demanding money and jobs for locals.
Mahato said it was a conspiracy against him and that he was prepared for any probe. The Chief Minister’s office, however, denied having received any such letter.
The police, meanwhile, have registered an FIR against unidentified persons in connection with obstruction of work in areas where the Russian company was working.
In the Assembly on Tuesday, Mahato got up several times to “clear the air” on the issue. However, Speaker Dinesh Oraon did not permit him on the ground that no formal allegation had been levelled against him in the House. Leader of Opposition and JMM leader Hemant Soren said the matter would be taken up at an appropriate time. He added, however, that the state should clarify the facts in this regard.
The letter, addressed to Das, was issued on January 27 by Russian Consul General Irina K Bashkirova. The press attaché of the Consulate General confirmed that the letter was issued. “We have not got any official response so far. Yet, we would like to thank the government as the problem has been sorted out, though partly,” said the spokesperson.
The spokesperson added that, as per the reports from the Russian company, their experts, engaged in maintenance of heavy equipment, will be allowed to work without hindrance.
The CMO maintained it had not received such a letter. “If such a correspondence is received, the official machinery would come into the picture. But we are yet to receive any such letter,” said a spokesperson.
It all started when the director general of Russian company IZ-Kartex complained to the consulate on January 18 about problems being faced by its team. The letter alleged that ever since the company began work in December 2014, Mahato and his trade union (United Coal Workers’ Union, affiliated to AITUC) aides had organised strikes and obstructed entry of Russian specialists into their area of work — Block-II and Katras areas of Dhanbad. It further alleged: “The demands of monthly payment of a certain amount of money in favour of Mr Dhulu Mahato and giving employment to 40 of his people were also put forward.”
The letter has been in circulation in the political establishment here, and a copy of the same is with this newspaper.
Baghmara police registered an FIR on February 13 against unidentified persons for obstructing a government servant from duty. Dhanbad SSP Surendra Jha said: “There was a general complaint from BCCL, following which we registered an FIR. We are providing them (Russian experts) security and have assured cooperation.”
BCCL General Manager (Block-II), Somen Chatterjee, said: “There is no instance of physical manhandling. But there was a demand for starting work in three shifts and for employing locals.”
Mahato told The Indian Express that he never met the Russian experts or made any demand from them. “It is all lies. I am appealing to the CM to institute a high-level inquiry so that the truth comes out,” he said.
He added: “There is nothing wrong in taking up the cause of labourers.” The party was with him, he said.
State BJP spokesperson Mohammad Kamal Khan said: “There is nothing prima facie wrong in an MLA asking a company to employ local people. As for investor confidence, our government’s policies are clear and welcome business enterprises. But it is being done to give employment to our youth.”
Mahato, who has several cases against him pertaining to obstructing official work, was caught in a controversy a few months ago when the government moved to withdraw a case on him. While the court rejected the application, the BJP government was accused of shielding its members.