The CBI will examine the alleged roles of Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and his former Cabinet colleague Gayatri Prajapati in a case of illegal mining, according to an FIR filed by the agency on January 2. On Saturday, the CBI searched 14 locations across Delhi and UP in connection with the case, which deals with illegal mining in Hamirpur between 2012 and 2016.
In the FIR filed on January 2, the CBI said, “The role of then mining ministers concerned during relevant period may be looked into during the course of investigation of the case.” The CBI is probing the case on the orders of the Allahabad High Court.
Both Yadav and Prajapati held the mining portfolio between 2012 and 2016 when the alleged irregularities in the mining of minor minerals were supposed to have happened.
The locations raided on Saturday include the residences of SP MLC Ramesh Kumar Mishra and BSP leader Sanjay Dixit, apart from then Hamirpur District Magistrate B Chandrakala, among others. The premises searched are spread across Delhi, Hamirpur, Jalaon, Noida, Kanpur and Lucknow and are associated with the 11 accused mentioned in the CBI FIR.
Calling the raids “political vendetta”, SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhry said, “The BJP government is misusing the CBI to malign the image of our party president Akhilesh Yadav. They are frustrated because they fear they will be defeated by the SP-BSP alliance in the Lok Sabha elections”
Talking of the mining case, a CBI officer said, “Akhilesh Yadav was holding charge of the mining ministry from 2012 till June 2013. After that, the ministry came under then Amethi MLA Prajapati. Since all irregularities took place between 2012 and 2016, the role of both Yadav and Prajapati would be examined. No decision has yet been taken on their questioning though”
CBI sources said B Chandrakala, who is famous as ‘Lady Simh’ in Hamirpur and is perceived to be an anti-corruption crusader, gave out mining leases allegedly in violation of rules laid down by the UP government and allowed mining even in the period when it was prohibited by the National Green Tribunal.
SP MLC Mishra, along with his brother Dinesh Kumar are among mining leaseholders who allegedly benefited from these irregularities. BS’s Dixit and his father Satyadev too held some leases during this period. All have been named in the FIR and their premises have been searched, sources said.
During its searches, CBI recovered Rs 2 crore in cash and 2 kg gold from the residence of accused Ramavtar Singh. During the period of the alleged offence, Ramavtar was a clerk in the mining department in Hamirpur. He retired as senior clerk from Jalaon. According to the CBI, he also held benami mining lease and had earlier been suspended for five years.
In another search at the residence of Mohammed Moinuddin, then a geologist with the mining department, the CBI claimed to have recovered 2 kg gold and Rs 12.5 lakh in cash.
CBI sources said searches will continue and more recoveries are likely to be made. Among the other accused mentioned in the FIR whose premises have been searched include Adil Khan, a key aide of Prajapati; Ram Ashrey Prajapati, then a mining clerk in Hamirpur; Ambika Tiwari alias Bablu Mishra, a leaseholder; and Karan Singh, another leaseholder.
CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said, “It was also alleged that other persons were allowed to excavate minor minerals and extort money from leaseholders as well as from the drivers of the vehicles transporting the minerals”
This is the third FIR filed by the agency following the Allahabad High Court’s order of 2016. The court order was result of a PIL filed in 2016, alleging rampant illegal sand mining in the districts of Shamli, Hamirpur, Fatehpur, Siddharthnagar and Deoria district. The order had been challenged by the Akhilesh Yadav government in the Supreme Court but was turned down. Following this, Akhilesh Yadav had sacked Prajapati, who later also got embroiled in a rape case.