Published On: Fri, Jun 21st, 2013

Corporate Power Cements Political Divide

Maya Govt Offered Reserve Forest Land To JP Group To Set Up Cement Plant, SP Govt Looks The Other Way

 

Super Cement Plant In Sonbhadra Comes Up In Blatant Violation Of SC Order, FC Act

 

Auditors Find Serious Anomalies In Land Transfer

 

Govt Action Resulted In Undue Benefit Of Rs 409.09-cr To JP Associates

Lucknow: No creature scratches one another’s back better than politicians do. And here it doesn’t matter even if that back belongs to your sworn enemy, of course as long as it pays you dividend. Or, if it’s a matter related to a corporate giant like JP Associates.

Little wonder, the construction of a super cement plant of the group, in the Kota reserve forest of Sonbhadra in eastern UP, started during the Maya rule continues without any hindrance in the Akhilesh raj. That this is being done in a blatant violation of the Supreme Court order and the Forest Conservation Act hardly mattered to either of the two regimes.

JP Super Cement plant in Sonbhadra

The under-construction JP Associates Super Cement plant in Sonbhadra

It was a common knowledge that the Jaypee Group was very close to the Mayawati government. During the five-year BSP rule, it seemed there was no developer in UP apart from the Jaypee Group – from Expressway projects to Infra all went to the Agra-based colossus.

One of the projects that the group harvested during the BSP rule was the setting up of a super cement plant in Sonbhadra. Barely within a few months of taking over the reins of the state in 2007, the Mayawati government went out of way to extend favour to the JP Associates and the group started the construction of the cement plant.

Jaiprakash Associates sought an environmental clearance from the ministry of environment and forest but the same was subject to clearance under the wildlife (protection) Act, 1972 from the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL). The NBWL in its meeting on January 24, 2011 directed Prema Bindra, a member of the standing committee and AK Srivastava, the Inspector General of Forest, MoEF, to inspect the site on April 16, 2011. Detecting numerous anomalies with regards to the project and the environmental issues, the two recommended suitable action against the Jaiprakash Associates.

Besides that clarification was sought by the IG forest from the principal secretary forest of Uttar Pradesh, principal chief conservator of forest and the chief wildlife warden to clarify as to how construction work on land in Kota village was allowed which has been proposed to be notified as forest land.

In the next meeting of NBWL on June 30, 2011, objection was raised by Bindra that the Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary was part of Vindhya range and the Jaiprakash Associates super cement plant was barely 2.1km away from it. It is well known that Kaimur range has a highly fragile ecosystem. She also pointed out that the cement plant in question was also violation of MoEF guidelines for Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) which states that no mining shall be allowed in the ESZ as it was within the impact zone.

Not only that the group without obtaining necessary clearance has also proceeded with the construction of a captive power plant which again was in close proximity of Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary. On this count also the IG forest, MoEF, has sought clarification from officials concerned of the UP government. Surprisingly, the present SP government has also turned a blind eye to the whole issue for reasons best known to it.

The sequence of events has been recorded by the auditors of the principal director of audit, scientific department of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in its audit memo no 19, dated March 19, 2012.

As per the memo, the UP forest department in November 2008 issued final notification of 778.991 hectares of reserve forest land (478.102 in Kota village, 70.045 hectare in Panari village and 230.844 hectare in Makawari village) and 304.241 hectare (51.064 hectare in village Padrach and 253.176 hectare in village Markundi – un notified) in Sonbhadra district, UP and handed over a total of 1083.231 hectare to M/s JP Associates Ltd in February 2009 for non-forest use, like establishment of cement plant, mining and other allied activities.

After scrutiny of records of Central Regional Office, Lucknow of Union Ministry of Environment and Forest, the auditors revealed in their report that 1083.231 hectare land in question was previously notified under section 4 of Indian Forest Act (IFA) as reserve forest land.

 

documents copy

 

The auditors have stated that the Apex Court in its order of July 1994 had directed to further proceed with action of notification under section 20 of IFA in the villages in which settlement process has been completed. Contrary to SC guidelines, the UP government in August 2007 on its own appointed the settlement officer and finally managed to exclude the above land from the reserve forest land and also changed its status in the revenue records as non-forest land and thus enabled the JP Associates to circumvent the Forest Conservation Act, and also avoided payment of NPV (net present value), CA (cost of compensatory afforestation) and other levies amounting to 409.09 crore.

The auditors have pointed out another glaring anomaly in which the BSP government transferred 507.512 hectare of land in Kota Village in place of 169.04 hectare as mentioned in the tender documents. The auditors further observed that in Markundi village in Sonbhadra 253.176 hectare reserve forest land had been excluded which was a part of Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary in utter violation of MoEF orders dated March 10, 2004.

The report also mentioned that the Uttar Pradesh government further changed the status of land from forest to non-forest/revenue and in the revenue records which again is the violation of forest conservation Act and the directions of the MoEF. Observing that the action of the UP government was arbitrary and illegal as the notification under section 20 as directed by the Apex Court in its order of July 1994 was not issued at all.

The report further states that flouting of Supreme Court orders as well as guidelines issued by the MoEF from time to time resulted in undue benefit of Rs 409.09 crore to JP Associate besides illegal diversion/transfer of reserve forest land and undue favour to illegally transfer the land thrice in quantity/area than tendered.

It may be mentioned here that almost similar situation was witnessed in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh where the Jaiprakash Associates had to bite the dust when the Green Bench of the HP high court ordered the group to dismantle its power plant in three months and cough up a fine of Rs 100 crore for causing damage to the environment in Solan district of the state.

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Social Media Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com