Opposition stages walkout in Odisha Assembly

Bhubaneswar: Opposition Congress and BJP on Monday staged walkout in the state assembly as the government rejected their demand of a CBI probe into the alleged mineral mining scam.

The issue was debated in the assembly through an adjournment motion where both the opposition parties held the state government responsible for "loot" of precious minerals from different mines.

"The amount of loot in the mining sector will cross over Rs 10 lakh crore," Congress Chief Whip Prasad Harichandan alleged.

Alleging "state sponsored" mineral loot in Odisha, Harichandan claimed the state-run Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) was part of the irregularity.

"The state government recently imposed penalty of over Rs 65,000 crore on different mining companies including OMC for excess production of mineral," Harichandan said.

OMC was found guilty in violation of MM(DR) Act and Environment Protection Act, he said.

"Of the more than Rs 65,000 crore penalty amount to be collected from different companies, OMC's share is Rs 35,000 crore," he claimed.

Alleging that the state government was involved in mineral loot through OMC, the Congress leader sought a reply from the minister as to when the state agency would pay the penalty.

"Let the OMC first pay the penalty before asking other private erring companies to make payment," he said.

While the amount of penalty due to violation of MM(DR) Act was above Rs 65,000 crore, the estimated amount of fine for deviation of Environment Protection Act was about Rs 75,000 crore, Harichandan claimed, "putting the total admitted scam amount to Rs 1.40 lakh crore."

 
In the alleged coal scam, questions were raised on the role of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in the joint venture between OMC and Delhi-based Sainik Mining and Allied Service.

"Patnaik allowed the private firm to have 74 per cent stake in the joint venture with OMC," Harichandan alleged.

The Congress Chief Whip also wanted to know whether the Law department had suggested not to allow 74 per cent stake to Sainik Service.

BJP legislature party leader K V Singhdeo was also equally critical of the state government accusing it of failing to check mineral loot in Odisha.

"From the day one, we have been demanding a CBI probe.

But the state government was avoiding it," he claimed.

Singhdeo alleged that the state government's vigilance wing had failed to file a single criminal case in the "mining loot."

Replying the debate, Steel and Mines minister R K Singh rejected the opposition demand for CBI probe, leading to separate walkouts by Congress and BJP MLAs.

Rejecting Harichandan's claim that OMC was fined Rs 35,000 crore, the minister said "the amount of fine on OMC was Rs 8,881 crore."

The minister said though the state government had made 47 recommendations, the coal ministry allocated coal blocks to only 16 companies.

On OMC's inability to operate coal mines, the minister held the Centre responsible for tagging four different companies for operation of one coal block.

Earlier, leader of opposition Bhupinder Singh had alleged that the Centre de-allocated four coal blocks leading to loss of crores of rupees for the state only due to inefficiency of OMC.