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Friday, Dec 13, 2019

After Cong ambush, govt orders in-house probe into mining ‘scam’

chandigarh Updated: Dec 05, 2019 00:46 IST
Hindustantimes
         

The Haryana Congress has ambushed the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP-JJP coalition government by using Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India report about ₹1,476 crore revenue losses due to mining department’s lapses.

The over month old Khattar government is on the back foot even as the CAG in its revenue sector report of “Mines and geology department” specifically mentions under a heading “Scope and methodology” that performance audit covered activities of mines and geology department, including 15 mining offices, from 2012-13 to 2016-17.

The BJP has been in power in Haryana since October 26, 2014, and before that, the Congress ruled the state for nearly 10 years.

The latest CAG report in question was tabled in the Vidhan Sabha on November 26.

The audit has clearly put the state government on the defensive after last Saturday’s double-barrel attack of the Congress when its state chief Kumari Selja and former minister Randeep Singh Surjewala described the CAG findings as “₹5,000 crore mining scam” and sought probe by a sitting high court judge.

On Tuesday, the Rajya Sabha MP Kumari Selja raised the issue of “illegal mining in Haryana” in the Upper House. And later in the evening, the Haryana government ordered a departmental inquiry into the CAG findings.

“I have sought a report from the mines and geology department. We will not spare the guilty,” Mool Chand Sharma, mines and geology department minister, told HT.

Dismissing Congress’ allegations as “baseless and imaginary”, Sharma said he had ordered an in-house inquiry to ascertain the truth and that necessary action will be taken as per the findings of the probe report. “The mining department had impounded 200 vehicles involved in mining in violation of norms. We have been acting tough against those involved in illegal mining,” Sharma, who is also a transport minister, said.

ILLEGAL MINING, NO INTERNAL AUDIT

The CAG also found difference between the area given in mining plan and what was observed during site inspection and the mining sites were not clearly demarcated by boundary pillars. “…there is a mismatch between coordinates given in mining plan and actual coordinates observed. Mining activities were carried out in an area larger than the approved area in Gumthala north block. The department failed to detect this resulting in loss of revenue,” the audit report says.

The audit observed that internal audit wing was not in existence in the department in spite of the CAG pointing out it in 2003-04. “…but no remedial action was taken by the department during the last 15 years.”

The CAG has said there is poor monitoring of mining operations by the department. While boundaries of mines are not clearly demarcated on the ground, there were indications of change in river flow regime due to excessive mining.

SHORTAGE OF STAFF

The CAG has observed irrational deployment of staff. For example, 17 mining guards were posted in mining offices at Gurugram and three in Jind where mining contracts did not exist as on 31 March 2017.

The CAG said 20 mining guards posted in districts having no mining operations could have been posted in other districts having equal number of shortages.

Two posts each of Mining Guards at Bhiwani (15 contracts), Hisar (one contract), Kurukshetra (one contract), Rewari (three contracts) and six posts each of mining guards at Faridabad (four contracts) and Mahendergarh, Narnaul, (11 contracts) were lying vacant.

There was 80% vacancy in the cadre of mining accountant/clerk. This cadre is responsible for maintaining records relating to ledger account for contracts etc.

The CAG said this huge vacancy affected the maintenance of records and monitoring recovery of dues from the contractors. No mining accountants/clerks were posted in Hisar, Kurukshetra, Mahendergarh and Rewari.

The CAG report says: “Delays in renewal of licences to operate stone crushers, cases of short/non-recovery of royalty, additional royalty and interest thereon from the brick kiln owners… resulted in loss of revenue of ₹1,476.21 crore.”

MINING OPERATIONS IN 10 DISTS

The mines and geology department is responsible for systematic exploration and exploitation of the minor mineral resources such as stone, sand, gravel, gypsum, etc. Mining operations are carried out in 10 districts. In Bhiwani and Hisar, gypsum is mined. Contracts for mining of sand, gravel and boulders are awarded for a period not less than seven years but not exceeding 10 years and mining of stones is awarded on lease for a period not less than 10 years but not exceeding 20 years.