Bhubaneswar, Jan. 10: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today conducted raids at 14 places in the state’s mineral-rich belt including Rourkela in Sundgerh, Barbil in Keonjhar and Rairangpur in Mayurbhanj district in connection with the illegal transportation of ores through railway.
The raids coincided with the CBI’s drive across the country to unravel the mining scam.
Though officials are tight-lipped about the raids, sources said the CBI conducted searches to ascertain the nexus between traders, transporters and unscrupulous railway employees, who had brought huge revenue losses to the railways. The raid was conducted on the instruction of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
The CVC has also asked the CBI to identify the people, including the railway employees, who had caused losses to the railway exchequer by showing undue favours to people involved in the mining business.
Sources said between 2008 and 2011, the mafia had been able dispatch hundreds of rakes of iron ore using the railway networks. When there was a huge demand for rakes by nearly 200 mineral firms operating in Odisha, the railway had introduced a system in May, 2008, to augment its revenue base.
Under the system, rakes are allotted on first come-first serve basis to transport ores. However, the consigner had to pay six times of the normal freight if it the consignment was to be exported.
However, the mafia managed to win over lower rung railway officials and dispatched ores without having the transit pass for using the rakes for exports.
“It has come to the notice that an agency cheated the railway by stating that all the consignments were meant for domestic consumption. But it was later revealed that the company had exported nearly 31 million tonnes of iron ore to a foreign country. While the firm earned money from the export, railways lost out on huge revenue,” said an official of the state steel and mines department, adding that now, a transit pass has been introduced to stop illegal transportation of iron ore.
The minerals were transported through the railway sidings of Banspani, Juridi, Nayagarh, Pajarangpur, Goaldi, Balani, Barabil, Deojhar and Gutur. After it came to light, the Railway slapped a fine to the tune of Rs 660 crore on one of the company.
At Rourkela, the CBI teams raided the office and residence premises of a reputed transporter Nand Kishore Agarwal and a railway employee, BB Sethi.
Meanwhile, raids were also being carried out at Barbil for the same reason. The raw materials originated from Barbil, and was supposed to be stocked at the yard there. Instead the ores were brought to the Sundargarh district and elsewhere by forging the documents. Last year the central investigating organization had raided the office and residence of miner Prasant Ahulwalia, at many places in the country, in connection with alleged irregularities in mining activities.
The CBI sleuths also raided Badampahad of Rairangpur and Kudhia railway station , a loading point near Sulelipat hill in Mayurbhanj district.