It has been over a decade that forest and farm lands of Chandrapur have been raped and plundered for their mineral deposits, Coal. High Court ordered action 3 years ago – why have two subsequent governments not acted?
Why have the courts had to give Contempt notice to many top and lower ranking bureacrats including the Chief Secretary of the state and the Divisional Commissioner for inaction?
Nagpur: It was on 23rd March 2010 that the then Patwari of Chandrapur, Vinod Khobragade stopped ten trucks belonging to Emta Coal Mines, a Karnataka based company, and found them carting coal that had been illegally mined and being taken for sale to Bellary, Karnataka. They were levied a fine of a whopping Rs. 24,28,840/ which they paid up.
He then brought this matter to the notice of the then Collector who assured Khobragade that the matter would be looked into and he need not bother himself with it any longer.
Next year, on 18.11.2011, Khobragade again confiscated truck loads of coal mined from the same coal block that is “yet to be allotted” on paper — this time from H.G.I.P.L and they were fined Rs. 12,48,000.
Though the Talathi had been assiduously pursuing this case it is apparent that both bureaucrats and Ministers concerned were not too keen on booking the culprits and stopping the illegal mining, since the only action taken by them was to suspend Khobragade from his post!
Rightfully, the then Leader of Opposition and MLA from Nagpur, young Devendra Fadnavis brought this matter up in the Maharashtra Assembly and created a ruckus demanding strict action against the private mining companies and the corrupt officials who were covering it up. Another colleague of his from the BJP, Hansraj Ahir was credited with exposing this massive corruption and he was, when the BJP came to power, given a cabinet post as reward for his actions.
So one would assume that now that Devendra is the Chief Minister of the state, and he hails originally from Mul, very close to Chandrapur and is also a die-hard ‘Vidarbhite’ all the irregularities would have stopped and local people got respite and justice. Right? Wrong!!
Even today, almost two years after change of government, the mining activity continues without a gap and at a conservative estimate 900 trucks PER DAY still leave for Karnataka carrying approximately Rs. 50,000 worth of coal each.
In 10 years, that amounts to a theft of coal worth over Rs. 90,000 crores, counting the actual loss of coal and adding to it the loss of taxes to ex Exchequer.
The whole story in a nut shell:
It was in July 2004 that a coal block of about 3500 acres was granted to Emta by the Central Govt. in Mouja Barrage, Mokasa in Chandrapur.
(The Vajpayee Govt. had just exited office two months earlier and new govt. of Manmohan Singh formed — the decision to grant the mines could very well have been taken earlier).
In September 2006, the Maharashtra Government granted permission.
But the Collector gave actual possession of 200 acres to the said company allowing mining activity.
The Company, without being granted possession officially, began mining activity in all 3000 acres though they paid tax on only coal from 200 acres.
When the Talathi had already uncovered the ‘theft’ and matter raised in the Assembly by Fadnavis and BJP, the Collector had allegedly misinformed the House that legally, possession of the entire block had been granted and there was no illegality.
But the Land Acquisition Officer, who is of the rank of Dy. Collector keeps mentioning in his records that possession has NOT been given yet.
The same double stand was taken in case of Khobragade. He was suspended and when he personally met the then C.M. Prithviraj Chauhan of Congress, orders were given to immediately reinstate him but on paper he remained ‘suspended’.
No F.I.R. against the mining company was registered despite the Talathi’s complaint by the Chandrapur police but Khobragade was warned to ‘keep quiet’.
Mining continued and local people kept suffering.
The double whammy of injustice to local populace –
When mining activity begins in any area officially and legally, a system is in place to shift and re-settle people living on or near the site since living there will be hazardous for them and hamper mining too.
Such displaced people are designated “project affected” and offered jobs or gainful employment too. The government sanctions a sum for this activity even if the mining is to be done by a private party.
In Chandrapur, since mining never began ‘legally’ people continue living very close by. Every time blasting happens they too suffer both Noise and Air pollution. Their houses have developed huge cracks and become almost unlivable.
Yet, home owner cannot move away since they have been allotted no alternate housing nor jobs in these mines or elsewhere. They are technically not “project affected” you see!
Thus you derive a man of his safe, peaceful dwelling, endanger his family, make them unhealthy by constantly subjecting them to noise and dust and also impoverish him by not providing work.
This in a nutshell, is what is happening to not just Chandrapur but all of Vidarbha. Our “Black gold” our coal has become a liability.
How the High Court had reacted to Khobragade’s complaints?
In 2013, Nagpur Today had reported this –
“In a development of far reaching consequences, and, creating an earthquake in the circle IAS officials, the Nagpur Divisional Commissioner has been booked by police on the orders of a court.
The cracking development follows illegal mining by the Karnataka Emta Company in the 900 acres of land in Bhadravati, Chandrapur district. A Talathi Vinod Khobragade had knocked the doors of a court in this regard in a kind of revolt against his very very superiors and top IAS officials. Accordingly, the court ordered registering of offences against 19 top officials including 7 District Collectors in this connection.
The Talathi Vinod Khabragade, a lower rung official of a village, showing an exceptional daredevilry had stopped illegal mining by Karnataka Emta in 2011. He apprised all the higher officials of the illegal mining by the Karnataka Emta Company in the 900 acres of land in Bhadravati, Chandrapur district. However, not a single top official took the serious note of the illegal actions of the giant coal mining company. All the Collectors and the Collector-level officials turned a Nelson’s eye towards the illegal actions for obvious reasons. Even a “five-year kid” could derive a logical conclusion that the black hands of the officials were cleaned by the company with crisp papers called the currency.”
Much water has flown in the Vaingaga since then. Fighting on the twin issues of corruption in irrigation and Coal scams and promising statehood to the people of Vidarbha, BJP came to power. A Nagpur (Mul) origin person was made C.M. People – of Chandrapur and Vidarbha – thought they could finally see light at the end of the tunnel.
Also, now the High Court had ordered action.
Unfortunately, a whole phalanx of bureaucrats and officers have been served Contempt of Court notice by the High Court for ‘inaction’.
The people served the notice include – Chief Secretary, Swadheen Kshatriya, Divisional Commissioner Anup Kumar, the then District Collector Deepak Mhaiskar, S.D.O. Ashutosh Saleem, S.D.O. Ajit Pawar, S.D.O. J.P. Londhe, S.D.O. Neel Madam, Bhadravati Tehsildar Sachin Kumawat, Warora Tehsildar Bhandarkar, Chandrapur Tehsildar Khandre, S.P. Sandeep Dewan, Thanedar Chandrapur Sampat Chauhan, Warora Thanedar Vilas Chauhan and Bhadravati Thanedar Nikam.
These are all Govt. servants though. What about action against their Masters?
Where does the responsibility for good and clean governance really lie?