Pvt firms apart, State, Central PSUs to be hit hard too
The recent decision of the Supreme Court in the Common Cause Vs Union of India case will have wider implications on the mining industry across the country, besides on public sector undertakings owned by the State and Central Governments.
Out of the Rs 20,000 crore to be collected from the erring miners, the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC), a Government of Odisha Undertaking, is the biggest violator in the mining penalty list, whose fine exceeds Rs 2,177 crore for illegal mining of iron and manganese minerals, forest rules violation, mining plan and environment laws.
The Central PSU like SAIL and the OMDC are not far behind in the penalty list. The court has ruled imposing 100 per cent penalty on minerals raised without environment and forest clearances as per Section 21(5) of the MMDR Act.
Last year, the Jharkhand Government had issued recovery notices to 15 lessees adding up to Rs 7,598 crore, which was later stayed by its High Court but now it may issue fresh notice. Green activists are encouraged to move the court for imposing of penalty for similar violations recorded in Goa and Karnataka.
Apart from iron and manganese, rampant violations in mining have been noticed in the coal and chromite sector. If the Government moves to recover similar penalty from coal and chrome mines, it would be more than a several lakh crores in Odisha only. As on date, about 228 mines of Coal India Limited (CPSU) fall under the category of violation of different environmental norms. Out of these mines, around 220 are pre 1994/legacy mines. These mines did not have any environmental clearances and were in operation through renewal of leases only. In Odisha, more than Rs 80,000 crore could be the penalty recovery notice on Coal India if an assessment is made for the violations, a mining expert commented. It would be no less if similar recovery is made from chromite mines where State Government undertaking is a part, he added. Hence if 100 per cent penalty for illegal mining is realized from Bauxite, graphite, lime stone and all other mineral coming under the MMDR Act, the amount will exceed a few lakh crores in Odisha alone. While the erring lessees are to be punished with penalty, what about the Government officials, bureaucrats, ministers who allowed illegal mining for years. Why did they not take any steps to prevent these violations? Why should they not be held responsible for this wide spread illegality? asked Dhirendra Rout, an activist in Keonjhar and Kendujhar Progressive Citizens Forum president.
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