Fresh CBI investigations have been ordered into the illegal practices of a “cartel” operating in Asia’s largest open cast coal mining facility at Chhattisgarh’s Ghewra-Dipika block. The mine comes under the jurisdiction of the South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL).
Union Minister of State for Coal Dasari Narayan Rao has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying the CBI needs to probe how ex-servicemen (ESM) units, which have been allocated transportation work in the block, are being used as “front companies” by powerful vested interests. The Prime Minister presently holds cabinet charge of the Coal portfolio.
Rao’s initiative comes in the wake of a May 28 report by a committee of MPs that reveals a strong nexus between functionaries of the SECL and a private company called Ms Aryan Coal Beneficiation Limited. The latter’s chairman Rudra Sen Sindhu has close family links with a former Union Cabinet minister who died in a road accident couple of months ago. Ms Aryan, in collusion with SECL officials, is alleged to have floated a string of “bogus” ESM companies. This nexus might have cost SECL losses to the tune of several thousand crores, the report said.
Documents in possession of The Hindustan Times reveal that 13 of the 14
ex-Servicemen (ESM) companies engaged in contract work at the mining facility are companies registered in Delhi. Most of these have a common auditor. Some companies have common addresses while annual audit reports bring out a record of internal transactions. There are also indications of a common source of funding.
Proof of the “closeness” between the SECL and the Aryan group is clear: About 10 SECL officers have been taken on board by Ms Aryan after their retirement or resignation.
The CBI had inquired into these allegations on two earlier occasions as well. It had also conducted at surprise raid at the site. However, the CBI’s first report had not found any substance to the allegations.
The Defence Ministry’s Directorate of Resettlement—which registers ESM companies—denies the charges.
“No specific allegations have been levelled against ESM companies,” said Major-General Harwant Krishan, Director-General of Resettlement, who retired from service last Friday.
Aryan Coal Beneficiation’s Sindhu denies the charges, interpreting these as ‘canards’ being spread against his company out of ‘business and political rivalry’.