Former minister Jayanthi Natarajan on ED's radar for abuse of power
The ED is investigating paybacks that Natarajan might have received for allowing Electrosteel to mine in the Saranda forests of Jharkhand during her tenure from 2011-2013.india Updated: Sep 14, 2017 00:10 IST
Trouble mounts for former environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan as she is on enforcement directorate's (ED) radar for alleged abuse of her position as minister.
Just four days back CBI had registered an FIR against Natarajan for illegal diversion of forest land in Jharkhand for mining by a private company, Electrosteel Casting Ltd.
Top sources in ED said that they have asked for the details of the case from CBI to probe if there has been any more laundering.
ED is probing paybacks that Natarajan might have received for allowing Electrosteel to mine in the Saranda forests of Jharkhand, despite her predecessor Jairam Ramesh's and the forest advisory committee's rejections.
Sources said that some of Natarajan's other decisions taken during her term as environment minister in favour of private companies are also under the lens.
Jayanthi Natarajan was the minister of state for environment and forest with independent charge from 2011 to 2013. Several of her decisions were criticized and the term "Jayanthi tax" coined to refer to allegations of corruption under her.
According to the CBI FIR, the Jharkhand government in 2008 submitted a proposal of diverting 55.79 hectares of forest land for 'non-forest' use by Electrosteel. This was part of proposal to lease 192.50 hectares for mining in the Saranda forests.
The forest advisory committee rejected the plan and a year later, Electrosteel resubmitted the proposal.
But this time, Jairam Ramesh as environment minister rejected the proposal.
The company then wrote to the Prime minister in 2010 for reconsideration. And the proposal was again put before the advisory committee, which rejected it.
On July 13, 2011, Natarajan succeeded Ramesh in the ministry. A letter from the Jharkhand chief minister and a meeting with managing director of Electrosteel later, Natarajan in February 2012 approved diverting 55.79 hectares of forest land for mining by Electrosteel, allegedly ignoring all previous rejections.