NEW DELHI: The CBI on Friday registered a Preliminary Enquiry(PE) against unknown officials of Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) and the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for irregularities in granting clearance for diversion of forest land for mining purposes in Saranda Forest of Jharkhand between 2007-2013.
The CBI PE has come barely two months after Express exposed the Jharkhand iron ore mining scam and irregularities in granting forest clearance on August 31, which interestingly led to infighting within the erstwhile Manmohan Singh Cabinet.
A CBI officer confirmed that the PE will look into the circumstances, which led to diversion of 512.43 hectare of forest land in Saranda forest division of West Singhbhum in favour of JSPL.
“Members of forest advisory committee will also be questioned,” the officer added.
Express had reported in August that after clearance to JSPL in January 2013, the then Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh objected to the diversion of forest land to private companies and had written to Manmohan in this regard. In his letter dated February 6, 2013, Ramesh had said that the move will hurt Saranda development plan, which was earlier hit by the Naxal menace.
“I was most distressed to learn that the forest advisory committee (FAC) of the MoEF&F has just given its permission for the diversion of 512.43 hectare of forest land in Saranda for iron ore mining by Jindal Steel and Power and for the diversion of another 998.70 hectare of forest land for mining of iron and manganese ore by JSW Steel,” Ramesh said in the missive.
However, the then Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan had criticised Ramesh for raising the matter with the Prime Minister, saying that he (Ramesh) himself as Environment Minister had granted mining lease to private companies and was now resorting to complaints.
“My predecessor Ramesh accorded forest clearance on 23/02/2011 for diversion of 117.0059 hectare of forest land in the very same Saranda Forest Division in favour of another private user agency namely Usha Martin Pvt Ltd for Vijay Iron Ore project. It would be highly discriminatory for MoEF to give forest clearance to one private agency and reject it for another in the very same area,” she had said.