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Goa mining leases renewed 'faster than fastest cheetah'
Panaji, Jan 21 - Speed and not due diligence appears to have driven the BJP-led coalition government's rush to clear as many as 31 mining lease renewals in one day, the Goa Lokayukta has underlined in his order indicting a former Chief Minister and senior bureaucrats for illegal second renewal of 88 mining leases.
Goa Lokayukta Justice P.K. Mishra also passed severe strictures against the Anti-Corruption Bureau of the Goa Police in his order, claiming it was more prone to protecting the "privileged and the powerful".
In its order issued on Tuesday, in connection with a complaint filed by a green NGO Goa Foundation, which alleged a Rs 1.44 lakh crore scam in the lease renewal processes adopted by the Goa government in 2015, Mishra, in his order said: "Only an ostrich with its head deeply buried in the pristine sand of Arabian Sea can say that the overnight renewals effected at a speed faster than that of the fastest jaguar or cheetah as was done during January 5 to January 12, 2015, and particularly on January 12, 2015 itself had been routinely done in course of official transactions without an iota of any malafide intention."
In all 88 mining leases were illegally renewed by two successive BJP-led coalition governments led by former Chief Ministers, the late Manohar Parrikar and subsequently Laxmikant Parsekar in 2015. The mining leases were renewed just before the central government amended the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act to make auctions mandatory for giving away of major mineral tracts on leases. In all 56 mining leases alone were renewed illegally between the period of January 5-12, 2015, the order said.
"The peculiar circumstances under which there was en masse renewal of the mining leases in a great hurry within a span of about one week is a grave incriminating circumstance against the three respondents which is required to be explained by the respondents concerned," he added.
While directing the Goa government's Anti-Corruption Bureau to file a First Information Report and recommending a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the alleged scam, the Lokayukta also slammed the ACB for protecting the influential.
"There is an unfortunate tendency in many organisations nowadays to protect the privileged and the powerful and the ACB of Goa government is no exception to such a disturbing phenomenon," Mishra said in his order.
The order also said that the Lokayukta in the past had noticed that the ACB was "most reluctant" to launch prosecution when influential political persons or public servants are involved.
"In several cases, ACB has failed to even register FIR when the allegations of bribery had been made against public servants and has been most slow and lackadaisical in its approach in investigating matters involving influential persons," the order said.
"There is no doubt that all the respondents are very influential by virtue of nature of offices held by them. In such view of the matter, it is recommended that after registration of the FIR, the investigation shall be entrusted to some independent agency like CBI," it added.
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