Union minister Jena accuses Odisha CM of 'mega mining scam,' demands resignation
Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Statistics and Programme Implementation and Chemicals and Fertilizers, Srikant Jena, on Monday accused Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of perpetrating a multi-crore mining scam in the state.
Jena claimed the scam in Odisha was much bigger than what had taken place in Karnataka and Goa jointly, and demanded that Patnaik accept moral responsibility for it and resign.
"From 2002-03 to onwards we have repeatedly writing to the Chief Minister, but he didn't responded. About one month back I wrote a letter to him and said that the magnitude of the scam is about 4 lakh crores. But he didn't take any action," Jena told reporters.
"It is now, after the Shah Commission's interim reports and before the final report, the CM has taken the position by imposing a fine of 58,000 crores on 27 mining operators. That itself shows that a mega scam has occurred in Odisha. The action is in itself enough evidence that chief minister has admitted to the scam. But my calculation is about 4 lakh crore," Jena added.
The Congress has alleged that Patnaik allowed iron ore worth Rs2, 50,000 crore to be illegally mined.
The ruling Biju Janata Dal has denied the allegations, attributing it to Mr. Jena's "feeble attempts to stay in the limelight".
The state is reported to have asked several of the private firms, including the Tatas, Essel and those linked to Jindal Steel, to pay penalties totalling to Rs. 50,000 crore for excess mining. The state-owned mining corporation too has to pay a fine. This demand for a fine is likely to be challenged in court. A commission of inquiry headed by Justice MB Shah is looking into the allegations of illegal mining.
BJD Member of Parliament Pinaki Mishra said that Jena's allegations "should be laughed off".
He also said that the figure of Rs. 2,50,000 crore was in Mr. Jena's "head, he has not backed it up with any evidence".
"It is a figment of Mr. Jena's rather fertile imagination. Mr. Jena must understand that he has to await the decision of Justice Shah Commission before jumping to conclusions. The matter is also pending in the Orissa High Court," Mr. Mishra said.
The Congress has alleged that the Odisha government has allowed both private firms as well as a "mining mafia" to mine well outside the demarcated areas, dig out iron ore in excess as well as in places which have not been contracted out for extraction.