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Miners asked to pay more

THE SAHA Commission, which is investigating the mining irregularities in the country, after sizing up the power in Karnataka and Goa, has now trained its guns at Odisha. They are not only investigating the financial irregularities, but have also taken the “people issues” seriously.   

The state government also has upped the ante after having been inactive for the last 3 years. Remember the mining scam that broke way back in 2009? The State Steel and Mines Department in July this year,  issued notices to 190 companies, seeking the value  of the ore extracted over and above the permissible  limit. Based on the submissions and findings, the Odisha government also has started cracking its whip. It  has already served demand notices on more than 100 mining leases which have topped Rs 68,000 crore and  counting more!  

According to Rajesh Verma, State Mines Secretary, notices have been issued to the mining firms u/s  21(5) of Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act for violations between 2000 and 2010. The  government relies on the report of the auditor general as to why the miners should not be asked to repay  the money.  

Legal experts dispute the merit of the demand. Hence, the demand of around Rs 68,000 crore for excess  extraction of iron and manganese ore is going to see protracted legal battles. Moreover, the accused are no  fly-by-night operators. The list includes companies such as Tata Steel, Essel Mining and Rungtas. Penalty is  yet to be determined for violation of Air and Water Acts. 

The juggernaut of the Saha Commission moves on unperturbed by these developments. The commission, which includes enterprising forest officials, is also appalled by the environmental hazards created by unsustainable mining practices. The members of the commission coming from the ‘Indian Forest  Services’ cadre claim that their Karnataka model has already brought about a visible change to the  environment. They are optimistic that the miners would be made to pay for the mess they have made. 

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