The recent CBI raids at the residence of Jayanthi Natarajan, who had quit the Manmohan Singh government in which she was minister of state for environment from July 2011 to December 2013, and had blamed Congress heir-apparent Rahul Gandhi of interference in her ministry, have engulfed her in fresh controversy.
In the FIR now filed, the charge against her is that while she was minister she gave clearance for diversion of forest land in Saranda Forest, Singhbhum District in Jharkhand, to mining company Electrosteel in violation of Forest (Conservation Act) in 2012.
Jayanthi Natarajan has been booked under Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Also booked is one Umang Kejriwal, the then managing director of Electrosteel Casting Limited, and the company, besides other unidentified persons.
What is significant is that the permission for diversion of forest land had been rejected by Jayanthi’s predecessor Jairam Ramesh, but when she took the post, she allegedly cleared it even though there was no change in the circumstances after rejection.
Apart from this case, there are a few more preliminary enquiries on the manner in which her ministry had then granted environmental clearance to various private players. Jayanthi Natarajan claimed she followed Rahul’s directions on the issue of green nod to certain big ticket projects but was ‘vilified, humiliated and sidelined’ by the central leadership.
A letter written by Jayanthi Natarajan to party president Sonia Gandhi then had indicated that Rahul Gandhi was involved in policy decisions at a micro level during the UPA II under Dr Manmohan Singh, something that the Congress has consistently denied. ‘I received specific requests (which used to be directives for us) from Shri Rahul Gandhi and his office forwarding environmental concerns in some important areas and I took care to honour those requests,’ the letter said.
Clearly, there was non-application of mind by her if her version is to be believed. Evidently, there is more to the CBI raids than meets the eye. The CBI also conducted raids at the premises of Jayanthi’s associates in Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Ranchi and Odisha’s Sundergarh in an apparent effort to get to the root of the dubious decisions that were taken in the environment ministry under her, whether there was any pecuniary benefit to her or to anyone else and to determine who were behind the decisions and why.
The truth must come out on corrupt deals by Congressmen which may have compromised the environmental needs of the country.