Coal ministry asks Odisha to expedite action taken report on illegal mining

At a time when controversy surrounding block allocations has caught different coal bearing states in a bind, the Ministry of Coal has urged the Odisha government to submit its action taken report at the earliest in connection with illegal coal mining activities.

In the light of observations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on coal & steel, Coal secretary S K Srivastava has asked Odisha chief secretary B K Patnaik to expedite the action taken reports so that they can be compiled and sent to the Lok Sabha secretariat.

Though the Coal ministry had written to the state chief secretary earlier on the matter in December 2011, the state government was yet to apprise the ministry on action taken in respect of illegal coal mining.

Waking up rather belatedly to the directive of the Coal ministry, the Odisha steel & mines department has now urged Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) and collectors of four districts- Angul, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda and Sundergarh to comply with the recommendations of the Parliamentary panel. The department has also suggested that the recommendations be discussed in the meeting of the district level task force.

The Parliamentary Standing committee had observed that the natural resources of the country are being plundered at the cost of national economy and destruction of environment. The panel was of the opinion that officials responsible to curb illegal mining are either indifferent or too scared to stop the menace.

“Officers of personnel and legal departments of coal companies should make all endeavours to ensure that the criminal trials pending for legal and unauthorized coal mining are ended with conviction. Unfortunately, the coal companies could not produce any facts and data, establishing the appropriate steps taken in this regard. The committee deprecates such a lackadaisical attitude of coal companies. It is unfortunate that in cases of such huge illegal coal mining, there is not a single conviction made by appropriate court by reason of non-persuasion of such case either by the appropriate government or by the coal companies”, the committee stated in its report.

Moreover, there is utter lack of coordination between the Central and concerned state governments and among various coal companies. While the Centre has exclusive powers to make laws with respect to regulation of mines and major mineral development, the state governments are mainly responsible for implementing such laws. The committee recommended that the coal producing states should frame rules and set up an inter-state joint intelligence and action force to combat the problem of illegal mining.

It had called for better monitoring, policing and creating job opportunities for the poor in areas where the problem of illegal mining is prevalent. The panel also observed that except for Jharkhand, no major study has been undertaken by any coal producing state or coal companies to ascertain the extent of loss of money due
to illegal coal mining.

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