The Chhattisgarh government has sent a show cause notice to NCL, a joint venture company formed by the state-owned National Mineral Development Corporation and the Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation, asking why the allotment of an iron ore mine in Dantewada to the company should not be cancelled, as no work has been done on it for the last two years, The Wire reported on Friday.
While the mine was awarded to NCL, Adani Enterprises, owned by businessman Gautam Adani, was made the mine developer and operator in 2018, just weeks before the Raman Singh-led Bharatiya Janata Party lost the Assembly elections. The notice was issued based on a report filed by Dantewada Collector Saurabh Kumar on March 5 this year, The Indian Express reported. The state has asked NCL about iron ore deposit No 13, which was the first deposit granted to the Adani Group.
The government sent the notice after it found that the consent of the Gram Sabha, needed for any mining activity, had been forged. The forest department is also reconsidering the forest clearance granted to the mine. The department is likely to send a show cause notice to NCL soon.
Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had ordered an inquiry into the iron ore grant in June 2019, after around 2,000 villagers protested, claiming that the mine was a site of worship and denying that they gave consent for it.
An unidentified top official at Adani Group told The Wire that the company had nothing to do with the Gram Sabha consent matter. “The Gram Sabha consent was taken in 2014, much before Adani Enterprises became the MDO,” the official said. “Who did what then has nothing to do with us because we were not even in the picture then.”
The collector told the government that he found that no Gram Sabha was held on July 4, 2014, as claimed by then Panchayat Secretary Basant Kumar Nayak. Only 109 out of 806 registered villagers of the town apparently turned up at the Gram Sabha, much below the one-third quorum needed, Kumar said. The report also said that out of those shown to have attended the Gram Sabha, eight attendees had died before the date. The report concluded that no such Gram Sabha was ever held.
The state government issued the notice days after the Income Tax Department raided the homes and offices of several major bureaucrats, a move described by the Congress government as “political vendetta”.
“The timings of these raids coincide with the state government’s decision to initiate criminal investigations into alleged acts of corruption committed under the previous BJP government,” Baghel had said. The chief minister also said it was possible that “corporate houses” that had got undue favours by the previous government could be responsible for the raids. However, another Adani Group official told The Wire that the company had no problems with the Baghel-led government.
Congress Chief Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala denied any vendetta against the Adani Group. “We are only against crony capitalism,” he said. “He [Gautam Adani] is a symbol of crony capitalism. No one should expect special favours like they have been getting from the BJP so far.”