JAMMU: Lackadaisical approach of Geology and Mining Department to recover massive penalty worth Rs 40 crore from private companies engaged for prestigious ring road projects in Jammu region has once again brought into focus influence of mighty forces engaged in plunder of grey gold at free will with impunity in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Documents in possession of JK Global News show that penalty to the tune of Rs. 37, 05, 33,680 (Rs thirty seven crore five lakhs thirty three thousands six hundred eight only) and Rs 1, 79, 87,145 (Rs one crore seventy nine lakhs eighty seven thousand and one hundred forty five only) were imposed on M/s Gayatri Projects Limited and M/s Tarmat Limited respectively.
The government has kept provision of imposing heavy penalty of 11 times the royalty cost to dissuade construction companies as well as contractors from lifting minor minerals through illegal sources with a sole aim to discourage illegal mining which has rendered a massive damage to the environment, said an officer of Geology and Mining wishing anonymity. Sadly, these provisions fail to rein in influential offenders as part of operation quid pro quo, alleged reliable sources in mining department.
The penalties were imposed by the District Mineral Officer (DMO), Jammu vide office letters No DMO/J/Reconciliation/2020-21/2934-38 dated 29/01/2021 and DMO/J/Reconciliation/2020-21/2882-85 dated 27/01/2021 served to M/s Gayatri Projects Limited and M/s Tarmat Limited respectively.
Ensuring transparency and fool proof mechanism, the penalties were calculated on the basis of glaring mismatch between the bills provided by the construction companies and empirical data furnished by their principal employers pertaining to consumption of minor minerals consumed by them in the ongoing projects.
The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) which is the principal employer of M/s Tarmat Limited vide its letters No NHIDCL/PMU-AKH/Royalty/2020-21/1051 dated 07/01/21 and NHIDCL/PMU-AKH/Royalty/2020-21/1100 dated 23/01/21 has endorsed that minor minerals soil/earth, bajri and sand to the tune of 49937, 12992 and 5535 in metric tons respectively were used in the mentioned period for the project.
Based on the data, the firm was slapped with a penalty of Rs 1, 82, 24,745 due to its failure to produce challans/bills for lifting of minor minerals from legal sources out of which the firm had deposited the amount of Rs 2, 37,600 whereas pending penalty of Rs 1, 79, 87,145 has not been deposited till date despite several reminders.
Similar, endorsement was made by National Highway Authority of India Limited (NHAI) which is the principal employer of M/s Gayatri Projects Limited, whereby vide its office letter No JDI /NHAI/2015-16/2291-94 dated 4/11/20 it pegged the use of ordinary earth and crushed boulders for the ongoing project for specific period as 1519122 MT and 577561 MT.
Accordingly in absence of its failure to produce bills justifying lifting of minor minerals from legal source, the firm was slapped with a whooping penalty of more than Rs 37 crore.
Taking a dig at lackluster functioning of mining department, renowned anti corruption crusader Prof.S.K.Bhalla observed that the non realisation of 40 crore penalties amounts to dereliction of duties/financial impropriety on part of the concerned. It is a fool proof case to be referred to CBI forthwith to stem the rot.
Interestingly, to effectively realize the penalties a significant meeting was held last year under the chairmanship of the then Commissioner Secretary, Mining Manoj Dwivedi wherein, the officials of NHAI as well as NHIDCL apprised the authorities that in case the twin firms fail to deposit the penalties, the same will be realized from bank guarantees of said firms lying with them.
Insiders in mining department revealed “Both the firms did not bother to deposit the penalties imposed on them”. For realization of penalties worth crore, the matter was pursue vigorously with the then Commissioner-Secretary but with change of guards in Geology and Mining department, the incumbent Director as well as Joint Director failed to rope in offending firms”, alleged sources.
It’s reported that a three member committee was constituted to examine the penalties imposed on the firms by the DMO, Jammu. The said committee as per insiders has justified the penalty without any relief to the firm.
The law of the land nowhere allows anyone to extract minor minerals through unlawful means with impunity for the sake of national projects neither it empowers the designated officer to abdicate his lawful duty to act against those involved in causing huge loss to exchequer” added sources.
Pertinent to mentioned here that BJP leader Vikram Randhawa in May last year has demanded CBI probe into mining mafia-officer nexus which is engaged in open loot minor minerals in UT.
He blamed the mining department for keeping mum on loot of minerals which on daily basis extracted illegally to the tune of Rs 15 lakh to Rs 20 lakh and out of which not a single penny is deposited in the government treasury.”
When contacted Director Geology and Mining O.P.Bhagat while evasive on the issue of prolonged delay in realization of penalty worth 40 crores from the duo firms, said “Imposing fine may be an easy job for DMO but the firms needs space and justification to shell out the whooping penalty”. The administrative department is working on this issue, he added.
JK Global News Take: The prolonged delay on part of the Director Geology and mining to rope in offending firms invites explanation. Now, the onus lies on incumbent Secretary Mining Mr. Amit Sharma for the realization of penalties imposed without further delay. The department in shambles also needs to be fine tuned to plug gigantic loss of royalty incurred by the mining department on monthly basis due to lethargic men and machinery.