'Mining' issue again in MP House

BHOPAL, NOV. 15. The alleged involvement of the Madhya Pradesh Village Industries Minister, Mr. K. P. Singh, and his family members in large-scale illegal mining activity in Shivpuri district dominated the Assembly proceedings for the second consecutive day today.

The high-profile Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Shivpuri, Ms. Yashodhraraje Scindia, even led a day-long sit-in protest and courted arrest, along with the national general secretary of BJP, Mrs. Maya Singh, the State unit BJP chief, Mr. Vikram Verma, MLAs and ex-MLAs from the Gwalior-Chambal region near the Chief Minister, Mr. Digvijay Singh's residence in the State capital to focus attention towards the State Government's ``continued patronage'' to the illegal miners and the resultant plight of the impoverished stone quarry workers in her constituency.

Ms. Scindia told journalists she had been compelled to come out into the open and bring to a logical end her crusade for the cause of the poor workers being exploited by the mining mafia in Shivpuri. After all attempts to address the issue by directly taking it up with the Chief Minister or raising it through the Assembly, one has now been compelled to go to the people's forum, she added.

The Madhya Pradesh Assembly had witnessed unprecedented furore yesterday leading to adjournment for the entire day when Ms. Scindia had raised the issue. The ire of the Opposition BJP members was directed against Mr. K.P. Singh who was accused of encroaching and carrying on illegal mining on a piece of land reserved for green belt and water conservation.

The Minister was also accused of running the mining racket through a series of bogus operators.

The Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Gauri Shankar Shejwar, said that this the first time that any Finance Minister has tried to legalise an illegal act.

The Finance Minister responded to this by saying he got the Excise portfolio just two days back.

He also told the House that following a stay the Khanvaria system, which was introduced in 1991, had been discontinued.

The ruling party MLA, Dr. Kalpana Parulekar also slammed the Government on this issue and said it would have been in a position to pay wages to the daily wage employees, who have now been retrenched, if it had succeeded in plugging the drain and collected commercial tax from the stone miners of Shivpuri.

The Opposition BJP members were quite agitated on this issue and staged a walkout.