Last month, an Income Tax raiding party recovered Rupees 70 crore from the coal contractor Lal Babu Singh’s residence in Jharia. According to the senior Income Tax Official, “This is the largest ever cash haul recovered by our I.T. Department in a single operation. Earlier this year, our I.T. team had found Rupees 44 crore from an I.T. raid conducted in Delhi.”
Jharia coal fields lies in the Damodar River Valley in Dhanbad District and it is infamous for its rampant illegal coal mining and the hundred years old underground fire that refuses to die down.
Who is Lal Babu Singh?
35 years old, Lal Babu Singh is small-time contractor working for Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL). His father Ramdev Singh was Loading Babu in Shimla Bahaal Colliery of BCCL; presently he is retired and lives in Gonhiya Chapra Basti, Balia District, Uttar Pradesh. Meanwhile Lal Babu has moved up rapidly in monetary terms, besides the residence property at Shimla Bahaal in Jharia, the documents showed that Lal Babu has purchased 80 kattha land in Dhanbad, at the market rate of 8.80 Lakh Rupees per Kattha. The officials in the I-T department also claimed that Lal Babu Singh is alleged to be involved in the coal scam in connivance with the officials of the Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL). In fact, last year BCCL reported a shortage of 1 lakh tonne of coal and maybe Lal Babu was involved in the coal-scam.
What was recovered from Lal Babu Singh’s Bank Accounts?
The I.T. Officials had also found bank account details, fake PAN Card and documents pertaining to numerous business transactions by the said coal contractor Lal Babu Singh. Rather interestingly, most of these bank accounts were opened couple of years ago in Bank of India, Ena Branch with the major part of deposits were made only after October 2010. These bank accounts were in the name of family, relatives and even servants and the amount recovered from the account are as under:
- Lal Babu Singh (Self): Rupees 8 crore
- Aarti Devi (Wife): Rupees 6 crore
- Suman Singh (Sister): Rupees 14 crore
- Pawan Singh (Driver): Rupees 10 crore
- Shatrughan Singh (Brother): Rupees 7 crore
- Bharat Singh (Brother): Rupees 7 crore
- Lakshmi Devi (Aunt): Rupees 7 crore
- Veena Devi (Aunt): Rupees 7 crore
While Saving Bank Accounts had about Rupees 70 crore, Fixed Deposit Accounts had Rupees 11 crore and the Current Accounts had Rupees 11 crore. In the coming days, the figure is only likely to go up. The I.T. Officials also found that these bank accounts were opened without the mandatory PAN number and even the documents relating to the income tax returns were not found.
A senior IPS officer from Jharkhand told mainstream English Newspaper journalist, “Now that the IT Department has seized around Rs. 100 crore from Lal Babu Singh, a contractor of Bharat Coking Coal Limited and an associate of BJP M.L.A. Kunti Singh, the role of politicians as coal mafia dons has been corroborated.”
Brief About Coal Mining Mafia of Jharia
BJP M.L.A. Kunti Singh is the wife of Suraj Deo Singh, one of the first coals mining dons of the Dhanbad coal-mining belt of Jharkhand state.
It all started in the late 1950s, when Jharkhand was part of Bihar state and the coal mining businesses were controlled by Private Parties. At that time, before government took control of the coal mines, most of the coal-mine-owners were from Gujarat and Rajasthan, whereas the coal-mine-workers were from north Bihar and western Uttar Pradesh; these owners started using goons to keep their workers under tight lease.
To keep up his leadership among the coal-mining-workers, even the leader of coal workers, B. P. Sinha introduced Suraj Deo Singh of Balia in western Uttar Pradesh into the business. Few years into the coal-business, overtaking his mentor Suraj Deo Singh bought dumpers and entered into the highly lucrative business of illegal coal-mining. After the nationalization of coal mines, to maintain his hold over the business, it became imperative for Suraj Deo Singh to join politics. As he traced his roots to Balia, also the native place and constituency of former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, it became easier for Suraj Deo Singh to contest election as Janta Party candidate from Jharia constituency in the elections held in 1977 for Bihar Assembly. After the electorate win, Suraj Deo Singh became the tallest leader of the coal-mining mafia operating in the Dhanbad coal belt of BCCL and stayed at the top of things till his death in June 1991. Thus at that time in the late 1950s, the criminal elements were introduced in the coal-mining business, who later took over the coal mining business, both legal and illegal types in a big way.
After the demise of Suraj Deo Singh, the differences cropped up among his family-members, with widow of Suraj Deo Singh, Kunti Singh (BJP MLA) being challenged by brothers of Suraj Deo Singh, Bachha Singh, Rajan Singh and ram Dharan Singh; the hold of Singh’s family has somewhat weakened, more so with the new aspirants too throwing their hats in the ring to control the coal business.
Politicians and Illegal Coal-Mining
The recent raids by the CBI and IT department have also removed any doubts whatsoever about the link between the politicians and the illegal coal-mining business. In the last couple of decades, Politicians have used their political power to earn huge sums of money from coal-mining businesses and coal-transportation businesses.
In the Jharkhand High Court, a petitioner Somnath Chatterjee filed a PIL that sought inquiry into the assets of Dhulu Mahto, a MLA with Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) Party (JVM-P). It was alleged that Dhulu Mahto has amassed assets worth 200 crores from illegal mining.
In another case, it was suspected that coal-mining company / mafia were behind the gruesome murder of Sister Valsa John in the neighbouring Pakur District of Jharkhand. However, Jharkhand Police believes the Maoist forces could be behind her murder.
It seems in the dirty but highly profitable business of Black Gold (Coal), the involvement of Jharkhandi Politicians is inevitable. And in the future the opportunity to earn illegal money easily, more and more politicians (of two varieties –first the Coal-Businesspersons-turned-Politicians or the second the Politicians-turned-Coal-Businesspersons} are going to the arena and leave the trail of more blood, gore and murder.
Still the coal-mining mafia remains a challenge for the Jharkhand Government, unless the steps are taken to rein in illegal coal-mining.
But that may never happen, as Dirty-Politics takes precedence over Good-Governance in Jharkhand.
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