Sagayam Commission's loss estimate in illegal granite mining in Madurai 'disputable': Tamil Nadu government

The Tamil Nadu government has said that the estimate of Rs 1,11,000-crore loss in illegal granite mining in Madurai district done by the Madras HC-appointed legal commissioner U Sagayam was erroneus.
U Sagayam |  File Photo
U Sagayam | File Photo

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government has said that the estimate of Rs 1,11,000-crore loss in illegal granite mining in Madurai district done by the Madras High Court-appointed legal commissioner U Sagayam was "erroneous and disputable", and rejected his recommendation for a CBI probe.

Stating this in a detailed rejoinder to the report submitted by Sagayam, Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan said in the Madras High Court recently that the government had accepted 131 of 212 recommendations of Sagayam and rejected 67 as these were beyond the scope of relevant laws and rules.

"When the special officer/legal commissioner commended the steps taken by the district administration, police and the government, there is no necessity warranting recommendation of a CBI inquiry. Further the legal commissioner has also not assigned any valid reason in support of his recommendation for CBI inquiry," she said.

The chief secretary said the government had taken effective action on the irregularities noticed at the granite quarries.

The rejoinder said Sagayam's recommendations had been accepted and implemented by the government, wherever feasible.

The government recovered 1,35,462 granite blocks stocked on patta lands unauthorisedly and 27,020 on government poromboke lands. All these were seized, assessed and valued, but could not be sold due to pending litigation in the high court, the chief secretary said.

She said Sagayam had uniformly valued and fixed the price at 1,200 US dollars per cubic metre though the amount would be paid only to Indian granite with right texture, colour, grade and size.

"Madurai blocks (granite) fetched prices ranging from 500 to 700 US dollars only. The rate of granite blocks vary depending upon these factors. Uniform rate cannot be adopted.

However, the special officer/legal commissioner had taken the value of Indian granites instead of Madurai granites." The chief secretary said Sagayam had sourced data from the geology department relating to granites in block and got details from the trade on export of granite in slabs and tiles. But while valuing its worth, he had compared and analysed two sets of data though these are non-comparable.

The unit measurement of granite blocks declared by exporters in customs documents is in cubic metres and that of granite slabs and tiles in trade is in square metres.

Hence, it was obvious that the two sets of data were not comparable for analysis. So Sagayam's conclusions are "unfounded and misconceived and stands rebutted", the chief secretary said.

On Sagayam's recommendations to fix CCTVs linked to the e-domain of the mines department to keep a tab on mining, she said state-run TAMIN (Tamil Nadu Minerals Limited) had introduced a quarry management system to monitor day-to-day activities of mines, quarries and factories in 2012 itself.

She rejected one of Sagayam's key recommendations to punish errant officials, saying the estimation in his report was based on transport permit issued by the department of geology and mining. It had not revealed any factual details of collusion of department officials with lessees in their tax evasion efforts.

"In the absence of prima facie case made against the officials of the department, it is considered that no further action is required in this matter." The high court had appointed Sagayam as legal commissioner on September 11, 2014 in response to a PIL by 'Traffic' Ramaswamy, a social activist, and directed him to inspect mines and submit a report to it as he was the one who originally filed the initial report on the granite quarry violations.

Sagayam commenced his inquiry on December 3, 2014 and submitted his report on November 23, 2015.

Ramaswamy had sought a direction to consider his representation and prosecute illegal mines in Tamil Nadu and their transactions by the Enforcement Directorate under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. 

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