The Shah Commission report on illegal mining in Odisha has been placed before a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) to finalise an action taken report (ATR) in order to submit the two together before Parliament. This was decided on Thursday at the Union Cabinet meeting.
“The report of the Shah Commission, appointed under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, must be placed before Parliament together with an ATR. The ATR will be drafted by the CoS and then the Cabinet will take a final view on that,” said Finance Minister P. Chidambaram to the media after the Cabinet meeting,
Parts of the scathing report; indicting both the Central and the State government for systematic illegal mining worth thousands of crores in Odisha, which went unchecked for years was leaked by The Hindu.
The report has been sitting with the government for more than six months but they have dithered from either tabling it in Parliament or even finalising the ATR.
The report had been classified as secret by the government and it was only a case filed before the Supreme Court on the matter that finally stirred the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to consider it at the Union Cabinet and move it a step closer towards its logical conclusion.
Under the regulations, the Centre is obliged to table the report along with a memorandum of action (taken by the government on the report) in Parliament within six months.
Sources in the government said while the individual Ministries involved — the Mines and Environment Ministries — had prepared draft ATRs, the decision to now move it through a CoS could further stretch the process of finalisation.
Earlier, the Shah Commission reports embarrassed the UPA with the panel indicting the Environment Ministry for gross violation of regulations in the Goa mining cases when the Prime Minister held the Cabinet portfolio.
The government has refused permission to the Shah Commission to finish its work in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and denied it another extension.
The five-volume report of the Shah Commission, had noted a collusion of officials from the State and the Central government with the miners that lead to exploitation of loopholes in the mining regulations and flagrant abuse of green laws.
While asking for criminal proceedings against the officials and the mining companies that violated laws, the panel has also asked for recovery of costs of the illegally mined ore at market or export prices.