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Slug-fest over fine amount for illegal mining

KalingaTV News Network

MiningBhubaneswar: A day after the Odisha government pegged the amount of fine to be paid by lease holders for illegal and excess extraction of iron ore as per the August 2 orders of the Supreme Court orders at Rs 17, 576 crores, a slugfest has begun over the fine amount between the government and the BJD on the one hand and the Opposition and civil society organizations on the other.

While the BJP and Congress have alleged an ‘unholy nexus’ between the BJD government and the miners to whittle down the fine amount of Rs 68, 700 crores to just Rs. 17, 576 crores, the ruling party has said the Supreme Court verdict would be honoured in letter and spirit and charged the opposition party was trying to ‘mislead’ the people.

Addressing a press conference here this morning, BJP state general secretary Bhrugu Buxipatra said the BJD government was trying to bypass the Supreme Court order for 100% recovery of the cost of excess iron ore extracted by the mining companies between 2000 and 2010. “This is a clear proof of the nexus between the government and the mining companies,” he said maintaining that his party could take legal recourse to ensure that full penalty is recovered from the erring mines.

Explaining the huge discrepancy, Mines minister Prafulla Mallick said the fine amount of Rs 68, 700 imposed by the state government in 2012 was based on the prevailing market cost charged by the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) at the time. But the Supreme Court, in its judgment, has asked for recovery of fine at the rate fixed by the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) at the time, which has been estimated at Rs 17, 576 by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the apex court.

Addressing après conference here this evening, senior BJD leader and party spokesperson Prasanta Nanda said the opposition was trying to create confusion on the issue. “The government will abide by every word of the Supreme Court order. The Opposition is trying to mislead the people. Its charges are completely baseless,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhijan (OSAA), a forum of RTI activists, has demanded the recovery of the entire fine amount of Rs 68, 700 crores originally imposed by the state government under Sec 21 (5) of the MMDR Act, besides interest at the rate of @12% for four years amounting to Rs 32, 976 crores, from the erring miners. OSAA also demanded ‘severe’ punishment against officials of the Steel & Mines department who neither made any effort to collect the fine imposed nor filed any counter affidavit/revision case when the decision was challenged in the High  Court.