Anti-graft watchdog slams Odisha for not collecting penalties
Bhubaneswar: Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International Tuesday slammed the Odisha government for not collecting Rs.68,700 crore penalties the state imposed on mining companies about two years ago.
Although fines were imposed for excess mining in September 2012, the government has not been taking steps to realise the amounts, Transparency International (TI)-India member Biswajit Mohanty said in a statement.
However, a senior official of the state steel and mines department said the matter is sub-judice as many companies have moved the courts against the government. Some have obtained stay on the decision, he told IANS.
But Mohanty said the revision authority of the ministry of mines of the union government has issued orders to block collection of an amount of Rs.1,153 crore only.
The remaining Rs.67,547 crore can be collected as there is no existing legal bar on it, he said.
The government`s own undertaking - the Orissa Mining Corporation - owes more than Rs.8,000 crore as fine but is not paying up, he added.
There are no stay orders from the Odisha High Court or the Supreme Court, Mohanty said, saying he obtained the information from the department in June under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The lessees obtained the stay orders as the state government did not file counters and took time to file para-wise comments. They have yet to file counters even though more than 18 months have elapsed since the stay orders were issued, he said.
"It is clear the state government officials have connived with the miners not to pursue the cases in the Revision Authority, so the stay order continues," he said.
If one calculates the interest due on the outstanding fine collection, it comes to a whopping Rs.14,427 crore at the rate of 12 percent interest.
"Every day, we are losing interest to the tune of Rs.22.57 crore," he said.
"The pending amount is enough to finance at least 90 per cent of the state`s annual budget," Mohanty said.
"The state government has several methods to collect the demand. It could have issued closure orders for the mines or cancelled the mining lease on account of outstanding dues," he said.
It could have also directed the district collectors to collect the demand under the Orissa Public Debts Recovery (OPDR) Act as arrears of land revenue, he added.
The OPDR dues can be collected by auctioning the assets of the debtor as well as arrest and detention of the lessee who operates the mines, he said.
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