Coal from such mines are generally of high quality and it caters to the need of more than 250 small and big sponge-iron units in the Durgapur-Asansol belt, supporting livelihood of at least a million people.

The income tax (I-T) department and the CBI have found nexus of certain bureaucrats, Eastern Coalfields officials and some politicians in allowing illegal coal mining, tightening the noose around those involved in these operations.

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A highly placed CBI official told FE that there are orders from the home ministry to stop the flow of political funding from illegal sources, which has prompted both the I-T department and the CBI to take actions against the illegal miners.

Illegal coal mining, carried out in the abandoned mines of the Eastern Coalfields in the Salanpur, Pandebeswar, Kajora, Sripur, JK Nagar, Kurustoria, Khaskenda,Neokonda, Harishpur and Haripur areas, has been estimated to be a thriving business of around Rs 800 -1000 crore. Although ECL has done GPS fencing in all its operational mines and every truck leaving, loaded with coal, is fitted with GPS tracking system, illegal activities continue by digging rat holes putting miners’ lives at great risks, the CBI official said.

Generally tunnels are dug far from the mines and miners have to get into deep seams to get coal since ECL has already abandoned those mines after extracting coal from the upper seams. Coal from such mines are generally of high quality and it caters to the need of more than 250 small and big sponge-iron units in the Durgapur-Asansol belt, supporting livelihood of at least a million people.

The I-T department, after raiding the office of Anup Majhee — the current kingpin of illegal coal mining — at Nituria in Purulia a few weeks ago, had established his links with cross-border cow smuggling. Accordingly the CBI nabbed the cattle smuggling king pins, Enamul Haque and Anarul Seikh followed by the arrest of Satish Kumar, a BSF commandant, alleged to have facilitated cattle smuggling.

A CBI source said there had been traces of money from illegal mining channeled to the bank accounts of some IPS officers’ family. Around Rs 80 crore per month goes into political funding. Although the CBI has not been able to arrest Majhee yet, it is in search of six more people whose links have been traced with illegal coal mining from the files seized from Majhee’s office.

Babul Supriyo, minister of state for environment and forestry, alleged that since the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which guards the ECL mines, have no power to arrest and have to hand over the seized dumpers loaded with illegal coal to the police, the police helps them get away, with the state government absolutely overlooking it.

But locals of the colliery belt said illegal mining had become a phenomena and just before the elections the government cracked down on such activities.

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