Bhubaneswar: A day after Union Minister Srikant Jena accused Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of colluding in a mining scam that supposedly caused a loss of Rs 4 lakh crores to the state exchequer, the Odisha government on Tuesday issued notices to at least 103 mining leases.
Odisha Mines Secretary Rajesh Verma was quoted as saying, "About 103 mining leases have been issued notices for Rs 67,900 crore under Section 21(5) of MMDR Act. We have issued a showcause, they will present their case and then the course of law will be followed."
The development comes a day after Jena demanded resignation of BJD chief Naveen Patnaik, saying, “Nearly Rs 4 lakh crore have been looted over the years with the knowledge of the Odisha government.”
Jena claimed mining mafias were allowed to extract iron ore beyond the plan approved by the Indian Bureau of Mines.
The senior congress leader from Odisha said by imposing Rs 58,000 crore penalty on 27 mining operators for alleged illegal mining, the BJD-led government has only ended up admitting its own involvement in the "mega loot of minerals".
"The Chief Minister is hand in glove with the miners who have been imposed a Rs 58,000 crore fine for illegal mining. The scam would not have happened had the Chief Minister not (been) involved in the scam," Jena said in a press conference here.
Jena, who had earlier written to the State Chief Minister demanding cancellation of the miners` leases, claimed that the size of the scam was much bigger and could be pegged at Rs 4 lakh crore, more than the size of the recent unearthed scams put together in Karnataka and Goa.
Lashing out at the Patnaik government, Jena said the state was "sitting idle" since 2003-04 to rein in the "rampant irregularities" in mining even after repeated prodding from his party.
"Now, by sending out the notices to the miners, Patnaik has acknowledged his involvement in the scam. He has no right to continue in his position and should resign along with the concerned minister," Jena demanded.
Jena, who is Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Statistics and Programme Implementation and Chemicals and Fertilisers, said if the Patnaik government had taken corrective measures, the miserable economic situation in Odisha, where more than 60 lakh out of the total 84 lakh families live below the poverty line (BPL), would have transformed into one of the richest states in the country.
At the same time, Jena admitted the failure of his own party for failing to highlight the scam in the state, saying," We should have done it earlier. We should create the awareness among the people. We admit our mistake".
He favoured cancellation of all the mining leases and handing them over to the state-run Orissa Mining Corporation.
When asked about the alleged involvement of a relative of the Pradesh Congress Chief, he said," Law would take its own course. We have nothing to say".
While refuting the allegations, BJD claimed that the allegations were only a case of sour grapes as Jena didn’t land plum posts in the recent cabinet reshuffle in the Centre.
With PTI inputs