Uliburu mining scam: 7 forest officials face action

Bhubaneswar: The far-reaching repercussions of the alleged Rs 1800 crore Uliburu mining scam in Keonjhar district was observed on Friday with the State forest department initiating departmental proceedings against seven of its officials.
 
According to highly placed sources, the officials to whom suspension orders have been issued are forester Ravindra Mohanty, forest guards Bhagirathi Mishra, Mathuri Swain and Jaykrushna Das. The three others, forester Jagannath Mishra, forest guard Jagabandhu Mohanta, and Dasaratha Mohanta are retired officials of the department.
 
All these, sources added, were placed in the Uliburi region of Barbil range in Keonjhar forest circle during 2004-09 when the scam was reported. The move is believed to have been taken following the vigilance report.
 
With the fresh action from the government, the number of officials facing disciplinary action for their alleged involvement in the multi-crore mining irregularities has increased to 14. Earlier this month, the State Mines department, after the matter surfaced had decided to take action against seven officials for their alleged complicity in the scam.
 
While on July 13, it suspended Manas Mohanty, deputy director of mines and Suresh Sahu, mining officer (Baripada circle), on July 11 the department had placed under suspension two inspectors of mines – Subash Chandra Barik and Ramesh Chandra Panda – for dereliction in duty.
 
The State Government on July 15 decided to departmental proceedings against deputy director of mines (Joda circle) Madan Mohan Biswal and Routray Murmu in this case who was placed under suspension in a separate mining related case in 2009. 
 
Besides, Purna Chandra Patra, who superannuated as deputy director last year is also under the scanner for his alleged complicity in the multi-crore scam.
 
Recently, the State Government terminated the Uliburu mining lease of B K Mohanty and took control of it after it was established prima facie that the miner had illegally raised minerals beyond its permitted area without any lawful authority. It also directed Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) to sell idle iron ore stock of around 3,00,000 tonne through e-auction.
 
It may be noted that B K Mohanty, the original leaseholder of the mines had transferred the ownership of the lease to Deepak Gupta, the managing director of Deepak Steel and Power, via power of attorney.  Investigations revealed that iron ore was unlawfully extracted outside the original lease area – in 6 hectare Reserve Forest and 29 hectare revenue forest which is in possession of the Revenue department.