The Odisha illegal mining scam amounts to Rs. 59,203 crore and illegal iron and manganese ore amounting to 22.80 crore tonnes was extracted illegally from the state for almost a decade, the Shah Commission report has said. It has demanded a CBI investigation into the matter, warning that too many powerful people, businessmen from Odisha and outside the state, bureaucrats and politicians are involved.
The Hindu accessed more parts and contents of the report which the government has classified as secret and asked the Supreme Court not to put out. The paper had earlier also reported on the gross violations of laws recorded by the commission.
The report notes that the state police and other state authorities, which suddenly filed cases when the inquiry by Shah Commission became imminent, are incapable of carrying out a thorough probe and catching the powerful but guilty parties. It suggests that these cases have been filed only as a cover to deny the CBI inquiry.
The state is unable to prosecute anyone, the Commission has said, “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 be no justice for the quantum of illegalities that took place.”
It has demanded a CBI inquiry not only in to the illegal mining, but also the attendant railway freight scam and linked evasion of excise duty by the mining companies.
It is one of the most scathing reports to come out of the stable of Justice M.B. Shah Commission on illegal iron and manganese ore mining as yet and it holds businessmen, state government and the centre, all responsible for the systematic exploitation of natural resources and linked rampant corruption.
The report says, “All modes of illegal mining a are being committed in the state of Odisha. There is a complete disregard and contempt for law and lawful authorities on the part of many among 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 goes on to list 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 Hindu had earlier reported the gross violation of environmental laws elaborated in the report. The parts of the report accessed by the paper now also detail the rampant and wide-ranging violation of mining regulations. 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 there 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.”
The miners have made a killing out of the illegal exploitation of natural resources, the Commission writes. For example it shows how the government-owned NMDC showed its costs as only 16% of the annual turnover but another private company during the same time showed 62.38% cost for mining only to substantially reduced its profits on records.
Warning that the super profits miners are making come out 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- 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 billions of rupees. They have no idea or intention of paying fair wages. Labourers are exploited and the object of seeing that locals benefit is frustrated.”
The panel also records how the current system of allotting mining rights is based on political discretion of both the state and the centre, the open to corruption.