CBI books Jayanthi for abuse of power

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 10 Sep 2017 08:31:53



Searches carried out at the premises of former Environment Minister

Though the permission for diversion of forest land in Jharkhand to a mining company was rejected by Jairam Ramesh, Natarajan gave clearance when she took over

THE CBI booked former Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan for alleged abuse of
her official position in diverting forest land for a steel plant in Jharkhand in violation of law, and carried out searches at her residence.

The CBI registered an FIR against her in connection with the clearance given during her tenure in 2012 for diversion of forest land for mining in alleged violation of law and against the advice of officials, sources in the investigative agency said.

Sources said the searches were conducted at Natarajan’s residence in Chennai, besides premises of some other accused in New Delhi, Kolkata and the mining company’s office in Odisha’s Sundergarh.
The FIR has been filed against Natarajan, Umang Kejriwal, the then Managing Director of Electrosteel Casting Limited, and the company.

The case pertains to clearance given for diversion of forest land in Saranda Forest in Singhbhum District of Jharkhand to mining company Electrosteel in alleged violation of Forest (Conservation Act) in 2012.
The permission was initially denied by Minister of State for Environment Jairam Ramesh but granted when Natarajan assumed office. She was MoS with independent charge of the ministry between 2011 and 2013.

“Jayanthi Natarajan, the then Minister of State for Environment and Forests, accorded the approval for diversion of 55.79 hectares of forest land for non-forestry use to ECL, though the same had been rejected by the earlier Minister of State...Without any change in the circumstances after rejection,” the CBI FIR alleged.
It said approval was granted ignoring the advice of Director General Forests and directions of the Supreme Court.

The agency had registered a preliminary enquiry in the matter in 2014 on the direction of the Supreme Court.
The enquiry showed that ECL signed an MoU with the Jharkhand Government for setting up a steel plant in Jharkhand in 2004. The production capacity was increased from one million tonne per annum to three million tonne yearly in 2007.

In 2006, the Jharkhand Government asked Union Ministry of Mines for grant of lease of 192 hectares of land in favour of ECL. The Mines Ministry said before allowing grant of mining lease all rules must be complied with.

On April 17, 2008 the State Government sought approval of the Environment and Forests Ministry for diversion of 55.79 hectares of forest land for non-forestry use out of the total area of 192 hectares, according to the findings during the preliminary enquiry (PE).

The Forests Advisory Committee considered the proposal twice before rejecting it on the ground that the area where mining was proposed to be conducted was part of core zone of the Singhbhum Elephant Reserve and critical to wildlife conservation, it said.