Madhya Pradesh: CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan Declassified Forestland for Mining Baron after he became BJP Minister
As Sanjay Pathak quit Congress and joined BJP, his 53-hectare land was reclassified as a "revenue land" by CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had allegedly helped Sanjay Pathak — a minister in his cabinet and mining baron — secure mining rights for his company Nirmala Minerals on forestland, by declassifying its status as “revenue land”.
Business Standard reported In 2011, Chouhan ordered a 53-hectare iron ore mine in Sihora, Jabalpur to be classified as forestland, effectively ensuring that Pathak could not start mining until he secured an additional statutory forest clearance from the Union government. This decision was taken by the Chouhan-led BJP government in the state following the recommendations of the Supreme Court-established Central Empowered Committee (CEC) in 2010 that all such lands — which came under the management plans of being forested — were to be treated as forestlands.
While Pathak and his company appealed this decision in 2011, the turnabout for Nirmala Minerals, reportedly came in 2015 — Pathak quit his Vijayraghavgarh seat and the Congress party in 2014 to join the BJP. He went to contest the bypoll in the same constituency representing his newly-joined party and won the bypoll to rejoin the MP state assembly. About a year later, in 2015, CM Chouhan went back on his own decision by yet again declassifying the land as “revenue land”.
Points to Ponder
- In 2011, a three-member committee appointed by CM Chouhan noted that according to the government’s records of forest and revenue lands, the land leased by Pathak’s Nirmala Minerals was to be termed as forestland.
- In 2015, CM Chouhan appointed a revenue official as a “competent authority” instead of a forest official. The revenue official thus appointed termed Pathak’s land as revenue land.
- Forest official’s objections regarding the declassification were ignored by the forest minister and forest secretary. Both authorities mentioned that the final decision of declassification ought to be taken by the CM.
- By obtaining a “denotification order” by a settlement officer under the land revenue code, the ruling party in MP bypasses the regulation to take prior permission from the SC to declassify the land.
- Pathak’s land gets declassified as “revenue land” in June 2016.