Ranchi, April 13: A public hearing held by the MB Shah Commission today proved to be a damp squib because of a poor turnout, even as the panel head cautioned that he would scan mining leases granted to over 20 companies.
M.B. Shah told The Telegraph the commission would take into account mining and prospecting licences awarded to 21 companies between 2003-04 and 2007-08, many of which were later found to be frozen (see box). The companies had proposed to set up steel plants in the state for value addition.
The state industry department has already cancelled 26 MoUs concerning mining and prospecting leases. Areas, where pending clearances are holding up companies from starting mining, will also come under the scanner of the panel.
Earlier, the meeting scheduled at 11am started after 11.30am, as the commission waited for a sizeable audience at the state forest department auditorium in Doranda.
With only a handful of government officials and mediapersons making up the bulk of gathering of around 50 persons, the central panel enquiring into illegal mining of iron ore and manganese was literally left with inputs from the officialdom on Jharkhand.
A social activist, Vijay Shankar Nayak, however, aired grievances, though not on illegal mining. He told the panel that many officials in the mines and geology department were holding vital posts for 10-15 years, though government norms mandate transfer.
The poor response was apparently due to the failure of the mines and geology department to publicise the event.
Shah, a retired Justice of Supreme Court, asked the department to immediately post information on iron ore with details of the locations of mines on the official website.
“The response (to the meeting) was lukewarm indeed. I appeal you (media) to share information on illegal mining and the lacunae in the sector,” Justice Shah said.
Additional chief secretary A.K. Sarkar, who holds additional charge of mines and forest and environment, argued they had advertised the public hearing a day in advance.