Nagpur: The one man crusader mission against Coal corruption in agricultural and forest lands of Vidarbha has struck again!
The persistent and fearless actions of Khobragade have put the very top management of WCL in the dock. A criminal writ petition against them has been admitted by the lower court of Rajura, Maharashtra.
We would like to remind our readers that this ‘lowly’ Govt. officer has in the past exposed Coal corruption to the tune of Rs. 90,000 crores in coal mines in Chandrapur district and his FIRs, punitive actions and court cases, have closed down ‘illegal’ coal mines over 3500 acres and had a powerful company like EMCA of Karnataka blacklisted forever from our mines.
Now he has taken his fight against 54 big corporations, including Manikgad Cement, GMR, Wardha Cement and DNR.
From Chandrapur his crusade has spread to Warora, Wardha etc.
“In their bid to stop me, they (politicians, bureaucrats, even police) keep getting me transferred to various district places of Vidarbha; I take my fight wherever I go, unfortunately corruption is rife everywhere. Where can they send me, which is corruption free?”
(Though the kind of still-hopeful, positive person he still is, he would be happy to find such a place. It would be a vindication of his belief in common Indian people and their honesty and sincerity.)
He believes firmly that in all cases of massive corruption he finds, these four classes of people are complicit:
- Elected representatives of people, MLA, MPs etc. ( no matter of which party)
- Administrators of the area – Collector, Commissioner et al
- Company – WCL – employees
Unless everyone turns a blind eye, or actively participates corruption of this level cannot happen, he says.
What makes the courts sit up and take action on his petitions is that he does not make allegations lightly.
He cites, Indian penal code Acts, he cites other court decisions, and he proves by his actions that laws are being broken.
On 23rd March 2010 as 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. (His point on taking this action was to underline the massive ongoing scale of illegal mining going on).
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.
He remembers at that point 900 trucks of coal were leaving for Karnataka per day! If for 10 trucks the fine amounted to almost 25 lakhs imagine how much tax evasion was happening and at what scale.
Why does he do it?
His reasoning is simple: “If the poorest man in the country pays taxes on any purchase he makes (now GST and state taxes) why shouldn’t the rich and big corporates get away with evading taxes?”
Why is the mining illegal?
When a parcel of land is granted to a mining company, like WCL, a set protocol of rules has to be followed before actual mining can begin:
The land records have to be transferred.
The land has to be surveyed and measured and mapped.
Possession has to be formally given.
People living there have to be rehabilitated to safer areas to their satisfaction.
Agricultural land has to be made non agriculture.
Industrial cess/ tax has to be paid for the process.
And finally ‘products’ ( minerals) mined have to be taxed before being transported.
This whole process takes time and costs money. So short cuts are taken and mining begins short circuiting the whole process.
(Thus in the case of EMTA mining began in 3000 acres of land when the due process had been followed for only 200 acres!)
Locals paid maximum price
Imagine when such illegal mining happens, the people living there and having farms are not rehabilitated. They are forced to live cheek by jowl along with the mines. They are exposed to air and noise pollution, their houses develops cracks, life itself becomes unsafe.
So now when he is fighting illegal mining in Wardha and Warora, farmers are also coming out and agitating against the Coal ‘mafia’.
In the aftermath of court admitting cases against WCL bigwigs like Rajiv Ranjan Mishra (C&MD, WCL), S.P. Singh, Mr. Navle, Mr. Ekmbar and Mr. Amit Kumar thousands of farmers came on the streets and did ‘chakka jam’ on the streets today.
Khobragade is not alone anymore.
What began as a one many army is literally becoming an army of affected masses.
How long will the ‘powerful’ not pay attention?
—Sunita Mudaliar (Executive Editor)