Why Is NTPC Trying To Protect Its MDO Thriveni-Sainik Even After A Whopping Fine Of Rs. 857 Crore Imposed On It?

Fine imposed after allegations with pictoral evidence of three kilometer patch of the lifeline river within the project area was destroyed by Thriveni-Sainik Mining Private Limited

It is another story of Man versus Wild these day, in Pakri Barwadih, Barkagaon in the State of Jharkhand, where the actions of Mine Developer-cum-Operator (MDO) Thriveni-Sainik Mining Private Limited, which has been entrusted with NTPC’s coal mining project, has carried out illegal mining/encroachment by openly flouting the rules laid down by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).

A whistle blower and social activist, Mantu Soni of Barkagaon, raised several serious questions regarding illegal mining done in four hundred acres by destroying three kilometer area of 30 meter-wide “Jeevan Rekha” river (Dumuhana Drain) and thereby, causing severe environment hazards not only to the river but also the flora and fauna of the region. The Pakri Barwadih coal mining project, with a capacity of 15 million tpa, involves an investment of Rs 4,500 crore.

Mr. Soni wrote numerous letters to the Forest Department, Chief Minister and Chief Secretary of the State of Jharkhand, apart from other agencies namely the CBI and the ED. A huge furore was created in the area after which the forest department of the state and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, began probe into this matter. The investigation report of the Regional Office of MoEF&CC, in Hazaribagh, confirmed beyond doubt, the illegal mining carried out by the Maharatna PSU NTPC’s MDO Thriveni-Sainik Mining Private Limited.

While officials of the Regional Office of the Central Government have submitted a report to the Government of India, citing that illegal mining/encroachment has been done in 156 hectare area (about four hundred acres), the local office investigation report concluded that only 37.20 hectare area (about one hundred acres of land) has been done.

Based on these findings, DFO, Hazaribagh, on 14/06/2023, issued a demand notice for payment of Rs. 857.52 on NTPC’s MDO Thriveni-Sainik Mining Private Limited. It is to be noted that this is the maximum ever fine imposed in such case of an operation of a Public Sector Undertaking in India, till date.

Why is NTPC trying to shield its MDO Triveni-Sainik even after a record fine being imposed on it ?

After the investigation report confirmed that without amending the conditions of forest clearance, NTPC and its MDO Triveni-Sainik Mining Company had destroyed approximately thirty meter wide Dumuhani Nala (river) of the area. After the confirmation of illegal mining in 156 hectares (about four hundred acres area) and the instructions of the Government of India on Forest, Environment and Climate Change, the largest fine ever recorded by the State Government on any PSU of the Government of India is Rs. 857 crores. But it is simply intriguing that instead of taking action against its MDO Triveni-Sainik Mining Private Limited, NTPC Limited has reached the National Green Tribunal against the State of Jharkhand & Others, in support of its MDO.

Openly flouting of the specific order of the Ministry of Coal and Mines in awarding the contract to Triveni-Sainik Mining Private Limited

Dated 11/10/2004, the Ministry of Coal and Mines wrote to the CMD of NTPC with specifically laid down conditions, which was not adhered to by NTPC Limited. The specific conditions are mentioned below –

Coal mining shall be carried on by NTPC or a separate company to be created with NTPC’s participation provided such separate company is a Central Government company with coal mining as an object in its Memorandum of Association.

The mining lease will be executed in the name of NTPC or such separate Government Company which may be formed with equity participation with NTPC.

Violation of any of the conditions imposed above on the separate Government company in in mining and disposing of Barwadih coal block will render the mining lease liable for cancellation.

Brushes With Controversies – Not New To Thriveni Earthmovers Private Limited

Thriveni Earthmovers Private Limited is not new to controversies. The Justice MB Shah Commission of Inquiry, investigating into cases of illegal mining in the state of Odisha, had even summoned Thriveni Earthmovers Private Limited, which was engaged as the contractor in ten mines in Joda mining circle. The mines included those of KJS Ahluwalia, RP Sao, Mala Ray, Indrani Patnaik, Sarada Mines, Mesco, Aryan Mines and Kavita Agrawal. The company was accused of taking control of the mines in violation of the Rule 37 of Mining Concession Rule (MCR), 1960.

Recently, a court complaint has been filed against the directors of Triveni-Sainik regarding embezzlement and fraud of Rs 85 lakh in the project area.

At the same time, NTPC had appointed the joint venture company named Triveni Earth Movers and Sainik Mining as the its MDO for the Pakri Barwadih coal mining project. Out of the way support to Thriveni-Sainik Mining Private Limited by NTPC Limited has raised many eyebrows pointing to a suspicious and deep nexus between Maharatna PSU and its MDO and questions are also being raised on the role of Ministry of Power in this episode.

The ups and downs of Pakri Barwadih Coal Mining Project and timing of awarding the contract

The contract was initially given to Thiess Minecs India Private Limited on 30/11/2010 and was cancelled in Financial Year 2014-15. Thiess Minecs India Private Limited initiated arbitration proceedings against NTPC, for disputes arising out of a contract, to develop and operate the Pakri Barwadih Coal Mining Block situated in the State of Jharkhand. Theiss Minecs India Private Limited has claimed an approximate amount of 1070.44 crore from NTPC for illegal termination of the agreement by NTPC and wrongful encashment of bank guarantees.

Also, An investigative report by The Sydney Morning Herald said that Australian mining major Thiess paid bribe to National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and the ministry of power to secure a coal mining contract in India.

Finally, in September 2015, the mining contract was awarded to a joint venture of Thriveni Earthmovers and Sainik Mining to extract 15 million tonnes coal per annum. A point to be noted here is that the Joint Venture was formed by the two companies in the same year. Moreover, the Justice MB Shah Commission of Inquiry was on at that time and without checking the credentials of these companies, the contract was awarded to them, though the Commission had red-flagged Thriveni Earthmovers Private Limited.

The Justice M.B. Shah Commission of Inquiry was set up in 2010 to investigate illegal mining of iron ore and manganese. The commission’s term was extended from July 17, 2013 to October 16, 2013.

Man versus Nature controversy brewing in Jharkhand for many years now

In September 2015, the mining contract was awarded to a joint venture of Thriveni Earthmovers and Sainik Mining to extract 15 million tonnes coal per annum. In May 2016, there was a huge protest against land acquisition and police atrocities resulting in the shutdown (bandh) of the entire Barkagaon block, preventing NTPC to carry out its mining operations which it started few days before the protest. On October 1, 2016, a protest in Pakri Barwadih village turned violent, where four protesters were killed and several were injured in police firing. Three of the four killed in police firing were minors. The villagers had been displaced due to NTPC’s project and the incidence was termed as a case of violation of human rights by several eminent personalities. Following this, leaders from the opposition parties, including ex-Chief Minister of Jharkhand Babulal Marandi had met the affected villagers on July 24, 2016, and had extended their support for the agitation. To negate this move, NTPC had lodged an FIR against the opposition leaders and the opposition leaders had decided to court arrest on August 4, 2016, but they were turned away by the Hazaribagh police. A week later, the opposition leaders were detained when they were heading for a dharna in Hazaribagh to oppose the forcible land acquisition.

Since then, this matter is on a constant boil and does not seem to cool down completely, in the near future …..

READ ALSO : https://indianpsu.com/jharkhand-high-court-directs-pccf-to-file-affidavit-on-charges-of-ntpc-obtaining-noc-by-holding-fake-gram-sabha/

www.indianpsu.com sent an email to CMD, NTPC, Shri Gurdeep Singh and to Secretary Power, Government of India, Shri Pankaj Agarwal on 08 April, 2024, seeking their views/version on the above mentioned article and another reminder to both on 09 April, 2024, but both the emails did not elicit any response.

READ ALSO : https://indianpsu.com/court-case-against-ntpc-mdo-thriveni-sainik-mining-pvt-ltd-and-others-for-embezzlement-and-fraud-of-rs-85-lakhs/

With On Ground Inputs from senior journalist Ajay Nirala, from Hazaribagh, Jharkhand

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