A Sessions Court at Chandrapur in Maharashtra on Wednesday ordered the police to register an FIR against 10 officials of a heavyweight coal mining company, Karnataka Emta, in connection with an alleged multi crore scam in coal extraction at Baranj near Bhadravati.
Karnataka Emta, which is headquartered in Bangalore, is a joint venture between Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) and private sector company Emta. It is locked in a dispute over the mining area since more than two years.
The court has also ordered to take action against Environment Minister Sanjay Deotale and several government officials for ignoring illegal coal extraction by the company.
Vinod Khobragade, a talathi (a revenue official) of Baranj, had approached the court saying that Karnataka Emta was extracting coal from a mine spread over 900 acres since 2012 even before the government handed over the mine to it. He had complained that the Maharashtra government had lost crores of rupees in revenue because of the “illegal” coal extraction.
Khobragade had brought this matter to the notice of his seniors first.
He had imposed a fine of Rs 32 crore on Karnataka Emta for illegal mining. However, his seniors suspended him for taking action without their consent.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had revoked his suspension after he found substance in his action.
Khobragade said he decided to approach the court because the police had refused to file FIR against the company.
“According to law, villagers should be rehabilitated first before the start of mining activities. Karnataka Emta did not wait for the land to be handed over and villagers rehabilitated. This was violation of law. None of my seniors took cognizance of my complaint because they accept perks from the company. I stood against it because it was my duty as talathi,” he said.
Chandrapur MLA Sudhir Mungantiwar of BJP called Khobragade a whistle blower.
“The government should have trusted its own official. I had raised the issue in the Assembly several times, but the government did not take any action. It is a scam worth hundreds of crores of rupees,” he said.
He also demanded that Khobragade be provided adequate protection as there was threat to his life.
The Baranj gram panchayat had signed a rehabilitation contract with the company in April 2012. However, the gram sabha, the supreme body of a village, voted against the contract at a meeting in May. It made the contract null and void.
Khobragade in his complaint alleged that Karnataka Emta had refused to accept the gram sabha’s decision and continued mining. The company, in a counter allegation, stated that Khobragade was trying to blackmail it and tarnish its image.