'Illegal mining due to rise in global demand for iron ore'

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Illegal Mining
Bhubaneswar, Dec 13:  Terming illegal mining as an outcome of the rising demand for iron ore in the international market, the Centre-appointed Shah Commission and said any mining scandal of big magnitude would not have been possible without connivance of bureaucrats.

"At least we can say that without the connivance of bureaucrats, it would not have been possible," Justice M B Shah told reporters after conducting a public hearing attended by different political parties, NGOs and civil societies.

Stating that the commission was certain that illegal mining took place because of sudden mineral export activities, Justice Shah said 90 per cent of the iron ore found their way to China.

The price that they (mines owners) got was very high because of high rate at international market, Justice Shah pointed out adding that while a number of persons were benefitted, several others entered into illegal mining trade.

To a question Justice Shah said, "state government officers may be involved in the illegal activities. Without it such type of activities could not have happened."

Asked about possibility of involvement of politicians in the multi-crore mining scam, Justice Shah said, "while officials are directly involved in the mining activities, there is no direct evidence to pinpoint politicians."

"We have not received any direct evidence against any politician. However, it is a matter of probe by the investigating agency," Justice Shah said adding in the case of Karnataka, there was direct evidence against politicians. 

"If we have direct evidences against politicians, the commission will certainly do something," Justice Shah said assuring the people of Odisha of justice.

To a question as to whether the panel would recommend a CBI probe into the mining scam in Odisha, he said he had already subimitted an interim report to government.

Justice Shah also did not reply to a question on whether the commission would recommend stopping of export of iron ore which it found to have led to massive illegal mining activities.

State BJP President Jual Oram, while deposing before the commission, alleged that certain influential leaders of the ruling BJD were hand in glove with illegal miners.

"We have pointed out in our memorandum about the political patronage to illegal mining traders," Oram told reporters adding his party demanded CBI probe into the scam.

Similarly, an opposition Congress delegation led by Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) President Niranjan Patnaik apprised the commission about the state government's "failure" in curbing the illegal mining trade in the state.

"As the state vigilance is ill-equipped to handle the scam of this magnitude, we demand a CBI probe into the illegal mining trade," Patnaik pleaded before the panel.

CPI, CPI(M), SJP, fringe political groups like 'Samrudha Odisha' deposed before commission pleading for a CBI probe into the incident.

Highlighting illegal mining in the state, noted social activist and journalist Rabi Das said while only 326 million tonnes of iron ore were produced from different mines in Odisha between 1947 and 2000, at least 545 MT of iron ore had been explored from 2001 to 2011.

As the Commission could hear grievances of only 50 parties during the stipulated time, about 100 others who were left out staged a dharna demanding their views be recorded on the subject.

PTI

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