Sunday, November 15, 2009

Not just Koda, Naxals may’ve been on take too

15 Nov 2009, 1106 hrs IST, Pradeep Thakur, TNN

NEW DELHI: Maoists never tire of styling themselves as the vanguard of resistance to the plunder of resources in the tribaldominated regions, citing Madhu Koda this as one of the justifications for ‘‘ class warfare’’ . But as investigation into the gigantic Jharkhand scam progresses, it turns out they were party to the loot, cornering a big share of booty from ‘‘ illegal mining’ ’ which allegedly thrived during Madhu Koda’s chief ministership.

Interrogation of four aides of the former Jharkhand CM, including his personal assistant Harinder Singh, at Delhi by Enforcement Directorate (ED) reveals Koda issued around 200 prospective mining leases — for exploration of minerals in the state — apart from 40 for mining .

Though prospective mining leases are not an authorization for mining scarce resources , it is now learnt that in most of the cases businessmen who procured them resorted to large-scale mining. The share of the illegal activity was equally distributed among politicians, bureaucrats and the ultras who charged a hefty fee for providing protection to the illegal operation , say officials.

Sources said the Koda aide admitted that the political establishment received Rs 10 lakh per acre at the time of issue of such a licence (total area extends to over hundreds of acres) while Naxalites got 20%-30 % on each truckload of minerals taken out of such a mine. The bureaucrats who were supposed to check any illegal activity received 10%-15 % of the share of the minerals and the remainder , about 50%, was the businessmen’s share in the loot.

The list of those who benefited from Koda’s generosity includes a leading Indian steel manufacturer and a Londonbased tycoon. Also part of this nexus are some politicians and bureaucrats who reaped rich dividend. As ED estimates Koda & Co’s worth to be at several hundreds of crore rupees, Maoists, it seems, had benefited equally from these nefarious deals.

Cross-examination of one of the alleged Koda frontman and promoter of Balaji Bullion group of companies, Manoj Punamia, reveals the latter had been working for many other high-profile people and that Koda was not the only ‘‘ business’ ’ he had in his basket.

His negotiations for an SEZ in Noida, worth Rs 4,800 crore, where payment was to be allegedly made in euros, and his other real-estate contracts worth hundreds of crores in UP hint at his wide network across political affiliations and state boundaries. His expertise in managing ‘‘ entries’ ’ and handling high-value cash transactions in banks and through hawala only helped his benefactors to launder big money in India and abroad.

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