The Congress party on Monday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government at the Centre of not adopting auction route in renewing leases of 358 mines and failing to give an answer to the Supreme Court over allegations that it was done in exchange for "large donations." Addressing a press conference here, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera sought a probe into the issue and alleged that the move had caused a revenue loss of about Rs 4 lakh crore to the nation's exchequer.
Khera alleged the law was changed with a retrospective effect and leases were extended for 50 years. He said the Supreme Court had in April this year issued a notice to the government on a petition demanding an inquiry into the renewal of several leases for iron ore and other mines.
"The allegation made in the petition is that several mining leases have been renewed in exchange for large donations," he said. Khera said the apex court has appointed a senior advocate as Amicus Curiae in the matter to help determine the truth behind these allegations.
"Five months have passed, and the government has failed to give an answer to the Supreme Court on the allegations raised in the petition," Khera said. He said the party has filed an RTI over the renewal of mining lease.
He said the Modi government introduced in January 2015 a new amendment -- by way of the ordinance -- to the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, 1948. "The amendment allowed the government to extend the leases of existing mines without going through the auction route," he said, adding that the party leaders had protested the manner in which select committee, which went into the bill to replace the ordinance, was "deliberately" given small window and could not consult states.
He said that certain state ministers also protested to the amendment and had noted that auction would have provided resources to them. "But clearly that was not a concern for Modi's suit-boot-ki-sarkar. Five years hence it has become clear that this was a potentially massive theft of resources committed on the people of this country to benefit a select few," he said.
"It is alleged before the Supreme Court that the leases for almost 358 mines have been renewed at no premium and no additional cost. 288 additional mining leases are up for renewal as well which are likely to be given the benefit of section 8A," he said. "The government must disclose the political donations received from the companies whose licenses have been renewed. The period in question is not covered by the secrecy of the electoral bonds," he added.
Khera said the Supreme Court has stated that auction should be the preferred route for the allocation of natural resources unless a more financially feasible route is found. He also referred late BJP leader Arun Jaitley's strong pitch in favour of an auction for the allocation of resources.
Referring to the CAG, he said it should probe renewal of lease "with the same enthusiasm" as displayed in the UPA years. "During our days there was a CAG who spoke of notional losses. During their days we see that there is a notional CAG. There is no CAG it appears. The institutions have become notional under their rule," he said.
He said the apex court has issued a notice asking the Modi government to respond to a PIL filed last month. "The petition alleges a loss of over Rs 4 lakh crore and demand a CBI inquiry into the same. The government has still not filed a reply on the same despite five months have elapsed. What was the reason you did not take the auction route? Who are the industrialists whom you wanted to oblige?" asked Khera. (ANI)
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