Monday, 30th October 2017

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Congress asks CAG to probe mining leases

The Modi government has renewed mining leases without taking the auction route or levying additional costs

  • Published 10.09.19, 3:16 AM
  • Updated 10.09.19, 3:16 AM
  • 2 mins read
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera argued that the court must have found sufficient merit in the allegations to issue notice to the government (Picture: @Pawankhera)

The Congress has asked the comptroller and auditor general of India to investigate mining licences the Narendra Modi government has renewed without taking the auction route or levying additional costs, causing huge losses to the exchequer.

“Mr CAG, please investigate these licences which have been renewed at zero additional cost and tell us, with the same enthusiasm as displayed in the UPA years, what is the exact loss that we as a country have suffered?” the party said in a statement on Monday, referring to a petition in the Supreme Court.

The plea has alleged huge donations to the BJP by the beneficiary firms and asked for a CBI probe into the renewal of questionable leases.

The petition, which pegged the losses at Rs 4 lakh crore, has alleged: “It is revealed that a large amount of political donation has been given by the corporate miner for the impugned provisions (of the MMDR Act) for extension of the mining leases free of cost from escaping the auction process.”

The Congress asked Prime Minister Modi to disclose the political donations received from companies whose licences have been renewed. “The period in question is not covered by the secrecy of the electoral bonds. Surely, if there is no quid pro quo, he shouldn’t hesitate to share the same? When the Supreme Court in 2012 and in August 2014 had expressly stated that auction is the preferred route for the allocation of natural resources, why did you choose a route that has actually cost the public several lakh crores?” spokesperson Pawan Khera said.

The court, he added, had issued a notice to the government in April 2019 but no reply had been filed so far.

Khera argued that the court must have found sufficient merit in the allegations to issue notice to the government.

“In January of 2015, the Modi government had introduced a new amendment, by way of an ordinance, Section 8A to the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, 1948,” Khera said, giving details of the case. “This amendment, Section 8A, allowed the Modi government to extend the leases of existing mines (captive and non-captive for both iron ore and other minerals) without going through the auction route and without having to pay any premium on the renewed leases, some of which have been extended till 2030.”

He added: “The select committee of the Rajya Sabha, headed by BJP member Bhupender Yadav, was asked on March 11, 2015, to review the bill and was given only a week to give its recommendations. It was required to table its recommendations by March 18. Congress members of the committee Mani Shankar Aiyar and Ghulam Nabi Azad protested against the… functioning of the committee which couldn’t consult with states and was given a deliberately small window which frustrated the entire process of parliamentary review. Azad had even recommended that the matter be referred to the concerned parliamentary standing committee.”