A talathi (village official) of a village in Chandrapur district has accused top district administrative officers, including the District Collector, of alleged involvement in an illegal mining scam worth Rs. 587 crore.

Vinod Khobragade, the talathi of Baranj village has complained to the State Revenue Minister, accusing the District Collector Vijay Waghmare and three other officers of being involved in the scam illegal mining.

The Karnataka Empta Coal Mines Limited (KECML) was given permission to mine 80.82 hectares of land near Baranj in May, 2008. But Mr. Khobragade slapped a fine of Rs. 32 crore on the KECML last year for mining an extra 8.89 hectares illegally .

“The then tehsildar of Bhadrawati, V. K. Madarboina, issued show cause notice to the KECML regarding the Rs. 32 crore fine but he was transferred immediately out of Bhadrawati”, Mr. Khobragade told The Hindu. “Then I complained to the Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) Ghanshyam Bhogavkar. But, he did not take any action and on June 21 last year the new tehsildar Prasad Mate asked me to put the illegally mined land on the name of the KECML” said Mr. Khobragade.

“The KECML illegally mined 8.89 hectares of land for more than 74 days, in which it earned more than Rs. 587 crore roughly and my complaints fell on deaf ears. When I decided to go public about the scam, I received death threats,” said Mr. Khobragade.

Mr. Khobragade has applied for police protection but he has not been granted any yet.

Chandrapur Superintendent of Police (SP) Rajiv Jain confirmed that the police have received Mr. Khobragade’s request for protection and his complaint about the illegal mining.

“His application for protection is under process and as far as illegal mining is concerned, we are not the competent authority to act on it. The mining department is concerned with such cases but if we find any case of mischief of forgery, we will take action,” said Mr. Jain .

But Mr. Bhogavkar refuted the allegations levelled against him. “It’s an issue of major mining and the SDO is not concerned with it and the allegations of Mr. Khobragade are baseless,” said Mr. Bhogavkar. Even the district mining officer, Nima Nikhare, termed the allegations of illegal mining in the area as “baseless.” “The company has all the permissions and there has been no illegal mining in Baranj village.”

The District Collector was not available for comments.