Scams Galore In Odisha Under Naveen Dispensation
The hope of Naveen Pattnaik-led BJD govternment in Odisha to have a dream run of fourth term has turned into a nightmare after surfacing of one scam or another. The three major scams that have sullied the clean image of Naveen are mining scam, land scam and chit-fund scam. Shah Commission probing illegal mining scam in Odisha has estimated that it amounts to Rs 60,000 crore. CAG (Comtroller and Auditor General of India) smells Rs 4,000 crores in land scam and according to data collected by Patra Commission investigating chit-fund scam it is Rs 5,000 crore scam.
It is worth mentioning that prior to appointment of High Power Inquiry Committee headed by Justice M. B. Shah by Supreme Court, Odisha state police and other state authorities suddenly filed cases against guilty persons only as a cover to deny CBI inquiry. Shah Commission has called the bluff by opining that the state is unable to prosecute anyone since there is involvement of mighty lessees, big traders of the state and from outside the state, political entities and officers of higher ranks. It will not be possible for state police to find facts and realities and there would not be no justice for the quantum of illegalities that took place.
The report says, “All modes of illegal mining are being commited in the state of Odisha. There is a complete disregard and contempt for law and lawful authorities on the part of many emerging breed of entrepreneurs, taking undue advantage of country’s natural non- renewable assets and resources for export earnings.”
It adds, “The pursuit of super profits has absolutely drained them of any feeling for fellow human beings/for nation and the moral values. The law has been made helpless because of its systematic non-implementation.”
The Shah Commission has listed each company that mined thousands of crores of ore in blatant disregard of all mining and environmental laws. In some cases it notes that mines ran illegally for more than two decades.
The report states: “Amendment to mining lease is permitted only for conservation of minerals, protection of environment or safety. In 85 mining leases IBM has modified the mining plan. In 30 cases they were modified two or more times. In 53 mining leases IBM approved amendments retrospectively. In 49 it was amended for increase in production. In these 49, from the year 2000 till date production was permitted to increase from 41.634 million tonnes to 118. 978 million tonnes. In 8 cases the production limit was increased from 18. 940 million tonnes to 49. 080 million tonnes. At this rate all the iron ore reserves in the state would be exhausted in 30 years. ”
Warning that the super profits miners are making comeout at the cost of the tribals and the state exchequer, Shah Commission says, that who get the mining leases do not operate it themselves but give it to power of attorney holders or contractors. For, the miners expenditure is not more than 45 per cent of the net value of production. The commission has recommended that in future half the net profits should be disgorged or equity share taken from the lessee for development of tribals.
Even while the miners have turned billionaires, the commission notes how the labour and the displaced tribals are ill-treated. ” Mine owners do not pay more than minimum wages to the labourers even though their income is more than billion of rupees. They have no intention of paying fair wages. Labourers are exploited and the object of seeing that locals benefit is frustrated. ”
Shah Commission has recommended CBI inquiry not only into the illegal mining, but also in the attendant railway freight scam and linked evasion of excise duty by the mining companies.
The Comptroller & Auditor General of India has detected large-scale irregularities in allotment of land and houses by the Odisha government and estimates a scam of about Rs 4,000 crore. CAG has suggested that the land and houses allotted to various individuals and organisation is in violation of the laws, and policies and be cancelled immediately.
The CAG report is based on the audit conducted on land allotment by the General Administration (GA) department, which owns most of the land in the capital city of Bhubaneswar-and development authorities like the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) and Cuttack Development Authority (CDA). CAG is doing a performance audit of acquisition, development and allotment of land by the BDA, the allotment of government land by the GA department and the commitment on land made in the MoUs for setting-up of industries in the state by revenue department.
The GA department has allotted prime land in Bhubaneswar to individuals and organisations, including hotels, educational institutions, cultural societies, NGOs and corporate houses. Similarly, BDA and CDA have allotted plots and houses to various people and organisation from the discretionary quotas of the Housing & Urban Development Minister, who happens to be the ex-office chairman of the two development authorities.
CAG has found that the government and ministers have allotted plots and houses from their discretionary quota to several politicians, senior bureaucrats, judges and journalists during the last 20 years. It has stated that there is no policy in exercising the allotments from the discretionary quota. What is worse, it has pointed out, some of the senior politicians, senior bureaucrats, judges and journalists have occupied two and three plots and houses filling false affidavits.
Even as the land scam exposes the unholy nexus among the politicians, senior bureaucrats, judges and journalists, CAG initially found it difficult to access the land records of the GA department, the BDA and the CDA due to stiff resistance from the authorities concerned. Particularly, the BDA was resisting the demand for production of the records. The GA department was also reticent about producing records pertaining to land allotted to corporate houses. Adding to the worries of BJD and Naveen, news reports are appearing almost daily in the state how ministers, ex-ministers particularly present M. P Kalpataru Das and his MLA son have garnered valuable government plots and flats throwing law into winds.
Naveen government is now feeling the heat of chit-fund scam. Bowing to public demand the state government first appointed Justice Patra Commission to enquire into the scam. On the basis of data and affidavits filed before it, Patra Commission roughly estimated that nearly Rs 5,000 crore have been swindled by various chit-funds. BJD government was thinking that as the public memory is short, the attention of the general public would be diverted by Patra commission. The commission would take so much time that when its report would come, people would have forgotten about chit-funds. But thanks to alertness of the Supreme Court the CBI is now probing this Rs 4,000-crore scam. Earlier, investigation by Bhubaneswar police and CID in last 2 years was so slow and slack that though they gathered some incremating documents, it never bothered to arrest and interrogate the politicians, bureaucrats and other influential persons who have been benifitted by chit-fund firms.
Now CBI teams have started raiding and interrogating these benefifciaries giving shocks to BJD. CBI has raided the residence of sitting BJD MP from Mayurbhanj Ramachandra Hansda, Banki MLA and former chief whip Prabhat Kumar Tripathy and former Keonjhar MLA Subarna Nayak. It has also got the remand of Pradeep Sethy of ‘Artha Tatwa’ and Ranjan Das of ‘Swastik India Multi State Credit Co-Operative Society’. Sethy has publicly stated that he would spill the beans. So it is expected that more and more BJD leaders would be sucked into the investigation and harm the popularity of BJD and Naveen. It is true that the chit-fund scam has broken the economic backbone of millions of rural and urban poor and middle class depositors. These chit-fund firms would not have been able to get away without patronage provided by ruling party politicians and laxity shown by the state government. So, CBI probe of ponzi scam has opened the floodgates of trouble for BJD and Naveen Patnaik.
By Satyendra Singh from Bhubaneswar