How Gayatri Prajapati is minting crores from illegal mine permits
Across Uttar Pradesh there are allegations that Gayatri Prajapati is running a well-organised syndicate for extorting money from mining industrialists. And this is nothing new.
Prajapati was the state mining minister till Akhilesh Yadav sacked him this week. He has now been reinstated after a truce between the warring factions in Mulayam's clan. Nevertheless, Prajapati's status barely affects this extortion business.
This story might not come as a surprise to the Uttar Pradesh government. Most people in the Sonbhadra district know it as a fact of life. Nevertheless, it needs to be told how an all-pervading nexus of politicians and mafia have turned the entire district into perpetual hell.
Would you believe that contracts are duly issued in Sonbhadra district for extortion of money from limestone and dolomite mines?
The extortion syndicate is well patronised by the elements within the government. The locals know it by names like 'MM-11' or simply 'permit.' The industrialists like to call the extortion money as 'VVIP tax'.
According to sources, the syndicate was given a contract of whopping Rs 22 crore for extortion in the month of September alone. The activities of the syndicate have continued unabated during Prajapati's tenure. It serves a special purpose for the lynchpins of the racket as they don't need to share the bounty with the corrupt officials.
It is alleged the late liquor baron Ponty Chadha used to run this syndicate during Mayawati's rule under the aegis of the then mining minister Babu Singh Kushwaha.
However, Chadha was eventually murdered and Samajwadi Party came to power in UP. Consequently, the reins of the syndicate also changed hands and it is now controlled by the mafia favoured by the ruling party.
Minting money over heaps of corpses
To understand this scam, one needs to go back to the year 2012. On 27 February 2012, a sudden blast in an illegal mine had claimed over 12 lives. More than 200 mines in Sonbhadra were closed as a fallout of this tragedy.
This was the time when Akhilesh Yadav was campaigning for the Assembly elections, hoping to dislodge Mayawati.
Yadav's hopes were realised and one of the first things he did after assuming office was to transfer Sonbhadra's then DM BB Pant. Pant was apparently punished for not agreeing to open the closed mines.
Suhas LY was appointed as his replacement, but he stuck to the stand taken by his predecessor. Like Suhas and Pant, other IAS officers were also not willing to toe the government's line, citing the mining policies.
The state government circumvented them by acting on the consent of the Chief Development Officer of the region, who was a PCS rank official. It is worth mentioning that PCS officers come under the state authority and often vie for IAS rank.
The state government had declared to implement e-tender process in sand mining from 31 May 2012. It has not been done till date.
Facts too obvious to ignore
Gayatri Prajapati had allegedly taken over the extortion racket soon after assuming office. The norms were openly flouted. When mining was allowed in 2,500 hectares of Billi-Markundi mining area, the forest department did not issue certification under Section 20 of the Indian Forest Act.
This section requires forest department to ascertain whether the plot being allocated is agricultural land, forest area or revenue land.
However, the department, in this case, was happy in issuing one no-objection certificates after another.
The extent of a mining scam can be ascertained by comparing the actual area of the mining land with that mentioned in the official permit. There are many mines in Sonbhadra where no minerals have been extracted at all. Yet, a few people have made billions of rupees through black marketing permits.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen