In a state where mining mafia has become audacious enough to allegedly kill a young IPS officer, the mineral resources department does not even keep record of its minister's periodic review of illegal mining, storage and transportation.
This shocking state of affairs in the department has been laid bare by the department's reply to a recent application made under Right to Information (RTI).
The RTI application was filed in December 2011 with the mineral resources department seeking documents and details of reviews undertaken by the mineral resources minister (Rajendra Shukla) on illegal mining, storage and transportation of minerals from January 1, 2011. Also, the month-wise details of all such illegal cases recorded in state were sought.
In a reply on January 28, the under secretary of the department, who is also the public information officer (PIO), said providing details would not be possible as the department does not keep the records of the review by the minister (copy of the RTI application and reply of the department is available with HT).
"This shows that the department is either not bothered about the rampant illegal mining activity or it is not ready to make the information public for obvious reasons," RTI activist Ajay Dubey, who filed the application told HT.
This inaction and lack of transparency of the department has over time translated into illegal mining activity of a level that not only became the main point of the first ever no-confidence motion faced by the Shivraj Singh government during the last session of the state assembly, but also forced the ruling party's own allies and cadre to demand serious action.
In December 2011, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) chairman Sharad Yadav had said at a press conference here that a "Bellary-like mining scam" was on in Madhya Pradesh, especially in the Jabalpur-Katni-Satna belt. He had urged the state government to take serious action. On Friday, Yadav said in New Delhi that if the government had heeded his warning, the young officer would not have lost his life.
In October 2011, former BJP spokesman and chairman of the MP State Mining Corporation Rameshwar Sharma (who holds rank of state cabinet minister) had written to the mineral resources minister Rajendra Shukla about complaints received of an iron mining scam bigger than the Bellary one and worth several thousand crores in Sehora tehsil of Jabalpur district.
Mentioning that the complainants had demanded a CBI enquiry under Supreme Court's supervision, the chairman had urged the minister to take "proper action".
Sharma said there were complaints about credibility of the government inquiry because of alleged involvement of administrative and mining officials. No action was taken.
The death of young IPS officer Narendra Kumar points to deep-rooted politician-mafia nexus in rampant illegal mining activity in the Chambal region and elsewhere. The illegal mining activity of the white stone found in Morena runs into hundreds of crores, sources say. The stone, which is quarried at Rs 800 per load of tractor-trolley, is sold for Rs 1,800 in Delhi markets and its cost escalates further internationally.
Prominent Chambal politicians from both the BJP and the Congress have faced charges of illegal mining. When the Congress was in power, ministers in the Digvijaya Singh cabinet KK Singh 'Kakkaju' and Aidal Singh Kansana faced allegations.
It is now alleged that former ministers and prominent BJP leaders Narendra Singh Tomar and Rustam Singh do illegal mining in Chambal.
Morena's notoriety have seen violence in past too. In 2007, when Akash Tripathi was district collector and Hari Singh Yadav was superintendent of police, there was exchange of fire between the police and the mining mafia.
Both the collector and the SP had to flee the scene to safety. After the incident, Tripathi had cancelled all mining licences, which were later restored allegedly under pressure from former minister and BJP leader Rustam Singh.
Apart from Morena, mineral rich MP has at least half a dozen other areas where the local administration faces a similar threat.
The Katni-Sehora area is one such flashpoint area where the local administration and illegal miners are pitted against each other. Katni has rich reserves of manganese, dolomite, limestone and iron ore. Conflicts between the local administration and miners are regular but have fortunately not snowballed.
Shahdol, Umaria and Anuppur, with their reserves of coal; Panna, Sagar and Shivpuri with their deposits of sandstone; Hoshangabad with sand in the Tawa and Narmada rivers and Sehore and Raisen with sand are other areas in the state where illegal mining is rampant.
"The local administration is headed by a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) who is usually a regular recruit IAS officer. The local staff is usually in connivance with the mining lobby and in such circumstances it is very difficult for the official to do anything to check illegal mining as they are either transferred under pressure or threatened," said an official who has served as SDM Katni in the past, requesting anonymity.
In November 2011, nine people involved in illegal mining in Uchehra and Nagod forest ranges in Satna district were arrested after HT broke the story earlier in the month. However, state PWD minister Nagendra Singh's nephew Rupendra Singh, prime accused in the racket, is absconding.
March 8: Young IPS officer Narendra Kumar, who was investigating illegal mining cases in the state, is killed after stone thieves he intercepted run a tractor-trolley over him.
January 28, 2012: State mineral resources department's public information officer says in a reply to RTI application that it does not keep any record of review of illegal mining, storage and transportation of minerals by the minister heading the department.
December 6, 2011: NDA chairman and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav asks state government to take action to stop "Bellary-like mining scam" brewing in Jabalpur-Katni-Satna belt of MP.
Aug 30, 2011: Local resident Gorelal Tamrakar complains about illegal mining in Unchehra and Nagod forest ranges of Satna district.
Sept 21-22, 2011: Additional principal chief forest conservator Jagdish Prasad Sharma goes undercover , probes and files a damning report on massive illegal mining. He names two ministers and a number of forest department officials.
November 14, 2011: One illegal miner arrested; Uchehra ranger YN Vishwakarma removed and deputy ranger Dheerendra suspended.
November 19, 2011: Eight illegal miners arrested. PWD minister Nagendra Singh's nephew Rupendra Singh absconded
October 7, 2011: Former BJP spokesman and chairman of the MP State Mining Corporation, Rameshwar Sharma writes to mineral resources minister Rajendra Shukla seeking "proper action" into complaints that illegal mining scam "bigger than Bellary" and worth thousands of crores in Jabalpur.
October, 2007: Then superintendent archaeologist of Bhopal circle of Archaeological Survey of India Muhammad KK seeks intervention of former RSS chief K Sudarshan to save Shiva temple remains in Morena which were facing a threat from illegal miners.
(With inputs from Rahul Naronha, Ashutosh Shukla and Ranjan)