CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government has claimed that fixing the loss to the exchequer in the granite scam in Madurai district at Rs 1.1 lakh crore by the one-man commission, led by U Sagayam, IAS, is erroneous. In its rejoinder running to 145 pages, the State also rejected Sagayam’s recommendation for a CBI probe into the scam.
Sagayam was appointed as Legal Commissioner by the High Court while passing interim orders on a PIL from activist ‘Traffic’ KR Ramaswamy on September 11, 2014. He was directed to inspect the mines and submit a report. He commenced his enquiry on December 3, 2014 and submitted his report on November 23, 2015.
In response to the report of Sagayam, State Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan filed a rejoinder stating that the government had accepted the recommendations of Sagayam numbering 131 and rejected 67 as they were beyond the scope of relevant laws and rules.
“When the special officer/legal commissioner commended the steps taken by district administration, police and the government, there is no necessity to accept recommendation for CBI inquiry. He had not assigned any valid reason in support of this recommendation,” it said.
The government has taken effective action on the irregularities noticed in the granite quarries in Madurai District and had taken effective steps, even before the appointment of Sagayam Commission, it added.
In his report Sagayam had referred to the special teams formed by his successor Anshul Mishra as Madurai District Collector and stated that the team had conducted surveys and assessments to ascertain the quantum and the value of granite mined illegally and ordered their recovery.
The Collector and his officials discharged their duty perfectly well, Sagayam himself has stated in his report, the rejoinder pointed out. The Madurai (Rural) district SP Balakrishnan had arrested ‘powerful mining lessee’ PR Palanisamy and Panneer Mohammed, it pointed out.
Sagayam’s recommendations had been accepted and implemented by the government to the extent possible. The government recovered a total of 1,35,462 granite blocks stocked on patta lands and another 27,020 stocked in government poromboke lands unauthorisedly. All blocks were seized, but could not be sold because of pending litigation in the High Court, the counter said.
Sagayam uniformly valued and applied 1,200 US dollars per cubic metre of granite though such an amount would be paid only to Indian granites having right texture, colour, grade and size. Madurai blocks fetched prices ranging from 500 to 700 US dollars only. The rate of granite blocks vary depending upon these factors. However, Sagayam took the value of Indian granites instead of Madurai granites.
With regard to the recommendation to fix CCTV cameras and link them to the e-domain of the mines department to keep a tab on mining activities, the Chief Secretary said the TAMIN has made an innovative effort by developing and introducing a unique system called quarry management systems with a view to monitoring the day-to-day activities of mines, quarries, factories, as early as in 2012 itself, the counter said.
Rejecting the key recommendation of Sagayam to punish errant officials, the Chief Secretary said the estimation made in the 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 absence of a prima facie case against officials, it is considered that no further action is required in this matter, the counter added.