A mining and forest scam could be brewing in Madhya Pradesh.
A forest officer went undercover scouring the mineral-rich forests of Satna district, and has now filed a damning report.
A report submitted by additional principal chief conservator of forest Jagdish Prasad Sharma on October 4 claimed that massive illegal mining of stone and stone slabs were on in Nagod and Unchehra forest ranges.
The report presented to principal chief conservator of forest Ramesh K Dave also named two ministers in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet — PWD minister Nagendra Singh Nagod and minister of state for mineral resources Rajendra Shukla –in connection with the illegal goings on.
The officer also alleged a nexus between forest department officials and illegal miners.
"I have come to know about the report and asked the officers to send the report to me. I would be in a position to comment on the same only after looking into it," said state forest minister Sartaj Singh.
Sharma had visited the area to verify one Gorelal Tamrakar’s charges about illegal mining. The complaint was referred to him by his senior, Dave.
The report, a copy of which is available with HT said: "Brazen mining was going on to extract stone and stone slabs. I saw tractors and trucks carrying stones."
Sharma did not inform the local officials at Satna and Rewa about his visit. He visited the areas as a businessman along with the complainant. Whenever they reached near an illegal mine, the labourers working there would run away and come only after being called out and assured that they were businessmen. The officer saw many trucks and tractors without registration numbers engaged in the illegal mining.
He said he found about 12 illegal mines at Khamtala, Sakhauha, Maharajpur and Khuthi alone.
He said local people told him that PWD minister Nagendra Singh's nephew Baba Raja's work had been going on in the Nagod forest range.
The divisional forest officer (DFO), a certain Gaud, had caught Baba Raja's tractor loaded with firewood but it was released later. According to the complainant, Gaud told him, "When the sub-divisional officer (SDO) himself is involved what I can do."
The report further said, "SDO, Satna, HS Mishra is the most corrupt when it comes to illegal mining. He spares all after taking money. This way, he has earned more than Rs 1 crore. He has got a good rapport with local ministers Rajendra Shukla and Nagendra Singh."
SDO Mishra, however, told HT, "Sharma has written a one-sided report speaking only to the complainant and the local people."
Rajendra Shukla, said, "I don't remember who this Mishra is. We are taking strict action against illegal mining."
PWD minister Nagendra Singh said, "It is on record that I held a meeting with authorities in Satna and asked them to take steps to check illegal mining in the area. I am not involved in any mining or illegal mining. If anybody is misusing my name I am not responsible. The authorities are free to take action against anybody."