Coming down heavily on the Karnataka government for allowing the export of 50.79 lakh tonnes of illegally mined iron ore through the Belekeri port in Goa, the Supreme Court has asked CBI to investigate the matter. The court said inquiries by the police did not inspire confidence.
Accepting amicus curiae Shyam Divan’s suggestions, the court ordered the CBI to conduct an “intense and comprehensive” probe into the brazen flouting of rules in the transportation of illegally mined iron ore and their surreptitious export. This, despite a part of the ore being seized by the forest department and the port authority.
The court said no other authority or court in the country will entertain any petition relating to the CBI probe into the export scam.
The Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court has issued notices to the central and Maharashtra governments following a petition by NGO Jan Manch against alleged irregularities in irrigation projects in the Vidarbha region.
The writ petition alleged fraud, abuse of power and siphoning of money by officials in the name of tapping the irrigation potential of Vidarbha. The court was informed that despite three state government-appointed committee reports, pointing out inferior work and lack of supervision, no action was taken against those involved. The petitioner has demanded a CBI inquiry and recovery of money from the guilty officers. A division bench of Justices P V Hardas and M L Tahaliyani allowed three weeks to the respondents to file their replies.
“In the name of betterment of agriculture, few erring officers and the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) emptied the state exchequer by countless thousand of crores of rupees. The result is that even today the farmers’ fields are without a drop of water,” said the petition.
It said the VIDC escalated the cost of 38 irrigation projects by a whopping Rs 20,050 crore (from Rs 6,672 crore to Rs 26,722 crore) within a span of seven months in 2009. Thirty of the 38 projects were granted hurried approvals in just four days —August 14, 2009 (11 projects), June 24, 2009 (10), July 7, 2009 (five) and August 18, 2009 (four).
The petition specifically mentions the Gosikhurd national irrigation project in Bhandara district, which is funded by the Centre. The project cost was Rs 372 crore in March 1982, but was frequently revised till it reached Rs 7,777 crore in 2008. Despite spending 85% of this amount so far, the actual area of irrigation potential created is a mere 13.5% or 34,000 hectares of the target of 2.5 lakh hectares.
“The petitioner submits that taking into consideration these facts and figures declared by the VIDC, it is a sure-shot case of a project’s ill-planning, mismanagement and massive corruption,” said Jan Manch.
The government-appointed Vadnare committee found out that rates were arbitrarily increased in 90 major tenders pertaining to the Gosikhurd irrigation project. The panel added that in most cases, VIDC officials awarded tenders at 15% to 40% above the original estimate, illegally. It also found poor quality of concrete lining through the entire left bank main canal of Gosikhurd.
The petition said the official note to ratify the sanction of every tender awarded amounting to a total of Rs 11,126 crore by the VIDC did not bear the signature of the state water resources department secretary, who is the ex-officio managing director of the corporation. “If the tender approval proposal would have been sent to the secretary, it may not have been sanctioned as objections were raised by his office,” it said.
“There is a nexus of politicians, bureaucrats and contractors in siphoning thousands of crores of public money by turning a blind eye to suicide by farmers,” the NGO contended. The petitioners have asked the court for a probe by the CBI or any independent agency.
Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar said his government would file FIRs against former chief ministers Digambar Kamat, Pratapsingh Rane and other officials in connection with illegal mining in the state.
This comes a day after the Shah commission that probed the matter indicted Kamat and the state’s previous Congress governments for illegal mining. The commission’s report was tabled in the Lok Sabha.
Parrikar told reporters that his government will implement almost all the commission’s recommendations. He said FIRs will also be filed against officials, including mines director and mines secretary, among others.
He said the FIRs have to be filed within 15 days.