New Delhi: Sparring over allocation of a coal mine in Chhattisgarh, former environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Monday alleged that billionaire Gautam Adani has benefited from Modi government's "largesse", a charge Adani group denied saying the mine was allocated during UPA regime.
Adani Group said it was only an operator of the coal mine, which was allocated to Rajasthan government when Congress was in power both at the Centre and the state and Ramesh as environment minister had given the forest clearance.
The Congress leader however countered this, saying the issue was not about Adani being selected as mine operator by Rajasthan government, but of BJP-led Chhattisgarh government passing an order cancelling the community land rights of local tribals over the forest land that was guaranteed under the Forest Rights Act.
Standing by the decision taken by UPA, Ramesh said he had provided "detailed evidence" to show how the Union Tribal Affairs Secretary was supporting Chhattisgarh government's "brazenly unilateral move to benefit Shri Adani by circumventing a rule, I had myself laid out as Minister of Environment and Forests in August 2009.
The rule stated that projects in forest areas should not and will not get clearance unless all rights, individual and community are settled under the law passed by Parliament with great exuberance and expectation in December 2006, he added.
Adani Group responded by issuing a statement saying: "The mine is owned by Rajasthan government. The clearance was issued by Chhattisgarh government to Rajasthan government.
Hence, we are surprised and fail to understand, why Shri Ramesh is seeking an explanation from us on getting any benefit/ favour in the said case?"
It further said the mine in question was allocated to the government of Rajasthan during the UPA regime and forest clearance was granted by Ramesh himself during his tenure as the Minister of Environment and Forests.
"Incidentally during that period, state government of Rajasthan was also ruled by Congress," it said.
Ramesh said the industrialist should have had the "intellectual honesty" to acknowledge the issue in dispute.
"That he is the beneficiary of Shri Narendra Modi's largesse both as Chief Minister of Gujarat and Prime Minister of India is beyond any doubt."
"What Shri Adani has conveniently forgotten is that the issue now is not that he is the mine operator selected by the Rajasthan government. Shri Adani has deliberately side-stepped the real issue: That the Chhattisgarh government has cancelled the rights that have to be settled under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 before the mine can be developed," he said.
Dismissing Adani's statement that the Congress party is "unnecessarily" dragging the corporate into its "politics", Ramesh in his statement denied that he was being "inconsistent" and was making the industrialist a political target.
In January, the Chhattisgarh government passed an order cancelling the community land rights of local tribals over the forest land, guaranteed under the Forest Rights Act. The Act mandates that all claims and rights of the tribals and forest dwellers be settled before the government moves on a land.
Stating that the Adani Group is proud about its contribution to nation building, the company statement said this was made possible because of the opportunities provided due to the opening-up of the Indian economy.
"Shri Jairam Ramesh is undermining the contribution of Congress which ushered in the era of liberalisation. Our late Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi had conceived liberalisation and it was further strengthened by Congress Government in 1991. Most leading corporates of today's India, including Adani Group, owe their success to this," the statement added.