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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Shah commission to visit state today

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 25: Members of the Justice M.B. Shah Commission will arrive here tomorrow to inquire into the issue of excessive mining running into crores. This will be their fourth state visit.

U.V. Singh, principal chief conservator of forests, Karnataka, will lead the five-member team. Justice M.B. Shah will join them on Wednesday.

The hearing will begin at the state guesthouse from Wednesday. This would be the last hearing before the commission finalises its report.

“The commission is arriving here as we had requested it to give a chance to the state to present its views before finalising its report. We have taken all steps to present our case with caution,” said a senior state government official.

Officials of the state forest and environment department, state pollution and control board, state steel and mines department and various other departments will be present during the hearing.

Director of mines Deepak Mohanty said: “We have been asked to be present during the hearing.”

On its last visit, the commission reportedly expressed displeasure at the state of affairs in some of these mining areas. To present the case, the Odisha government has decided to rope in the senior advocate of the Supreme Court, U.U. Lalit.

State advocate general Ashok Mohanty and other empanelled advocates, Suvasis Tripathy and Subhransu Padhi, will also argue on the case in favour of the state government. “We have to pay Rs 56 lakh as fee to rope in the senior advocates,” said an official.

The commission will hear the arguments of the state government as well as the owners of 186 mines. During its earlier hearing, the commission had raised objection to the maps prepared by the state government to identify the lease areas of different mines. During the visit, the panel had found evidence of mining having taken place in no-man’s zone at certain areas.

The commission, which quizzed officials at some of these mines during its last visit, was also looking into the allegations of violation of forest and environment laws besides scrutinising the mining plans of some of the companies. Sources said that the panel expressed displeasure at the intensive mining in one of the areas cautioning that this might lead to depletion of reserves within the next 18 years.