Jajpur: Residents of villages around Aruha Hills under Dharmasala tehsil in Jajpur district suspected foul play in notices served to a lessee to pay a penalty of Rs 10.02 crore for alleged forgery of documents and excess mining of black stones than the leased area, a report said Wednesday.
The lessee Trinath Jena has been served two notices five days ago to pay the penalty of Rs 10.02 crore for alleged forgery of documents and illegal mining of black stones from Aruha Hills.
However, it has raised the eyebrows of local residents as the notices issued by the tehsil Office date back to 29.09.2021.
“The notices were issued on the back date, or were suppressed for around last three-and-half months to protect the lease holder Trinath Jena,” the locals have alleged.
Earlier, the Lokayukta had ordered a probe following which Director of Inquiry submitted a report. Now, as many as 10 staff of Dharmasala tehsil have been entangled in the misappropriation case.
“Notices issued demanding a penalty of Rs 10.02 crore is an eye-wash attempted by the tehsil staff and officials. This way, they have been trying to escape administrative and legal action,” the locals added.
The case had come up for hearing before Lokayukta after a report was filed by plaintiff named Sarbeswar Behura. The Lokayukta had passed an order during hearing of the case (No-1355/2020) on illegal quarrying of black stones from the Aruha hill, December 10, 2020.
The Director of Inquiry had conducted a probe into the illegal mining in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 20(2) of the Odisha Lokayukta Act, 2014.
The Lokayukta order had further stated that the state government has incurred huge loss of revenue to a tune of several crores owing to the unholy nexus between the district administration, especially erstwhile Dharmasala tehsildar and the lessee Trinath Jena.
The enquiry report had then mentioned about involvement of erstwhile Jajpur district Collector, four former tehsildars, two geologists and three revenue Inspectors (RIs) in the massive misappropriation.
Recently, the officials and staff had submitted their replies January 12 in response to the show-cause notices issued by the Lokayukta.
It is pertinent to mention, according to Behura’s report lodged before Lokayukta, lessee Jena extracted black stone from Aruha hill beyond the permissible limits of lease area.
The former district Collector, Dharmasala tehsildar and lessee Jena had also filed their submissions in reply to a previous order by the Lokayukta where they have denied any irregularities in the mining of black stones carried out by the leaseholder.
However, the reply submitted by the Collector goes to mention that the Aruha black stone quarry No-1 was settled in favour of Trinath Jena in 2017-18 on lease for a period of five years.
The reply further stated that there is regular enforcement of activities going on at the lease area under Dharmasala tehsil and an amount Rs 19,37,020.00 has been collected from royalty and penalty.
In addition, 103 vehicles have been seized by the enforcement team so far, the Collector had stated. In his reply, the tehsildar stated that several vehicles involved in illegal transportation have been seized and the law has been set into motion against the wrongdoers.
The complainant Behura had pointed out that though there are over 500 small and big quarries under the Dharmasal tehsil, royalty and penalty collected from them is less than one per cent in comparison to the illegal quarrying carried out on the Aruha hill.