'Jharkhand lost Rs 14,000 cr worth natural resources'

Justice Shah report blames political rift, corporate-babu nexus for loot

'Jharkhand lost Rs 14,000 cr worth natural resources'

Rift among United Progressive Alliance (UPA) ministers and nexus between private players and babus have resulted in massive loot of natural resources in Jharkhand to the tune of Rs 14,000 crore, a report has revealed.

The voluminous report by the MB Shah Commission, tabled in Parliament in the last session but failed to reach the public, said 18 out of 42 mining leases to private players to extract iron ore or manganese were issued without mandatory environment clearances. Eight of those firms extracted iron ore from 1993 till last year.

The report suggested that the whopping amount siphoned off should be recovered from the lease holders. The government is said to be looking into the findings.

Citing examples of alleged favouritism towards private players, the report said the government granted stage-1 approval to Sajjan Jindal-owned JSW Steel to extract iron ore in the Ankura reserved forest area in West Singhbhum, failing to take note of how deforestation caused floods in Uttarakhand last year. Justice Shah termed such a move a “sin” that would wipe out thick forest.

He backed his findings with two letters written by former minister of environment and forest Jairam Ramesh and his successor Jayanthi Natarajan to former prime minister Manmohan Singh, in which the ministers accuse each other of favouring private players in handing mining rights in violation of the laws.

Ramesh complained to the prime minister that Natarajan had favoured the Jindals by diverting forest land to them against forest laws, which he felt would hamper the UPA government’s plan to develop Maoist-hit areas in Jharkhand.

“I was most distressed to learn today that the forest advisory committee of the MoEF has just given its permission for the diversion of 512.43 hectares of forest land in Saranda for iron ore mining by Jindal Steel and Power and for the diversion of another 998.70 hectares of forest land for mining of Iron and Manganese Ore by JSW Steel,” Ramesh had said in his letter.

The report also quoted Jayanthi Natarajan accusing Ramesh of diverting 117.0059 hectares of forest land in the Saranda forest on February 23, 2011, “in favour of another private user agency namely Usha Martin Pvt Ltd for Vijay Iron Ore project”.

“It would be highly discriminatory for the MoEF to give forest clearance to one private agency and reject it to another in the very same Saranda area,” she said, hinting at Ramesh’s double standard.

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