Ranchi, March 15: Chief minister Arjun Munda today ordered the suspension of a block development officer and the then officer in charge of Noamundi police station in West Singhbhum district for illegally selling iron ore that had been seized last year on the orders of the district administration.
The suspended officers include Arvind Kumar, the circle officer of Noamundi who also holds the BDO’s post, and Daud Kiro, who had been transferred within the district from Noamundi police station.
Munda cracked the whip in the middle of today’s proceedings in the Assembly amid vociferous protests by Opposition members. The Opposition was angry with mines and geology minister Hemant Soren, who tried to fend off the issue after it was raised by JMM MLA from Chaibasa Deepak Birua as a classic case of “protectors-turned-looters”.
The chief minister, who has shown intent to wipe out corruption, declared, “I order the suspension of the BDO as well as the officer-in-charge (Noamundi police station). I would seek a report from the deputy inspector-general of police before the state could even lodge an FIR on the matter against the erring government officers.”
The suspended duo had allegedly connived and sold off around 7,000 metric tonnes of seized iron ore — estimated between Rs 4 to 8 crore based on its quality — to members of the local mining mafia such as Arun Kumar Gupta and Anwar Khan.
The incident took place in April 2010 after a crackdown on the rampant illegal mining of iron ore in the district by then deputy commissioner Sunil Kumar.
Crushers operating illegally in forested tracks and overloaded trucks were identified during an operation. Besides, 25 FIRs were lodged against illegal iron ore traders in the area on the orders of Kumar.
“District officials had seized around one lakh metric tonnes of iron ore that was confiscated by the Noamundi police station,” Kumar told The Telegraph.
Kumar also said that Arvind and Daud shared information on illegal iron ore mining, crushing and transportation trade in the region, without disclosing anything to the district administration.
The illegal practices found more patrons during the tenure of chief minister Madhu Koda, who also happened to be the Jagannathpur MLA, Kumar said, pointing out that Noamundi fell under Jagannathpur.
After the administration caught a whiff of sale of seized iron ore, the Noamundi sub-divisional officer conducted an inquiry on the directive of Kumar.
The inquiry report stated that on April 2, 2010, about 7,000 metric tonnes of iron ore were illegally ferried from the site where they were seized. It pointed out that the BDO and the police should have acted more diligently to prevent the illegal sale.
Chakradharpur MLA Laxman Gilua and Jagannathpur MLA Geeta Koda have been demanding an inquiry into the matter by a committee of the state Assembly.
Speaker C.P. Singh too has been maintaining that the matter is very serious.
However, Hemant stopped short at fixing responsibility on West Singhbhum district officials, before Munda intervened.
Notably, illegal iron ore mining and transportation is rampant in West Singhbhum, one of the biggest iron ore bearing areas in the world.