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HindustanTimes Fri,29 Aug 2014

Officials make mafia’s job easy in Rupnagar dist

Prabhjit Singh, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh/Rupnagar, April 20, 2014
First Published: 07:45 IST(20/4/2014) | Last Updated: 07:47 IST(20/4/2014)

After the HT series on mining mafia, nobody in the mining wing of the Punjab industries department was willing to give the names or a contact of the legally auctioned quarry contractors in Rupnagar district. At the same time, the mining officials have asked the stone crusher owners to get the consent from these mining operators for an assured supply of the raw material.

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Ever since the mining wing auctioned the five quarries in Rupnagar in January 2014, some 232 crusher owners are dependent on these mining contractors. The HT has already reported on Saturday that at least two of these five quarries were defunct.

Every crusher owner here would name Billu as a ‘royalty’ collector on behalf of the contractors. Billu, when contacted, told HT that he does not exist in the documents pertaining to the quarries and was only an employee. Aske d whose employee was he. He did not reply, expressing unwillingness to talk further.

A quarry each of the total five pits auctioned in January this year is located at Surewal, Bhalan, Kiratpur Sahib, Diyapur and Palasi.

Several crushers have attained the “mandatory” surety letters from Jalalabad-based mining contractor Baldev Raj for the supply from Surewal quarry.

Baldev Raj is the Fazilka zila parishad member representing the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and is based in Jalalabad, the assembly constituency of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Similar letters were also issued to the crusher owners by one Manvir of Rupana village, adjoining Muktsar town. Manvir is the nephew of local SAD leader Nishan Singh in Muktsar.

CRUSHERS’ FATE IN COURTS
There have been several orders or interim orders of the Punjab and Haryana high court pertaining to the illegal mining business, which have mainly hit the stone crusher owners of Pathankot and Rupnagar clusters.

The two main plank son which the crushers have been at the receiving end were unaccounted material found during raids or their location in riverbeds.

A piquant petition was, however, filed in the high court in 2010 that had challenged the ‘goonda tax’. The Rupnagar deputy commissioner wa s then served the notice for an appropriate action.

Till date the so-called royalty collection thrives in the area and the mining of ficials maintained that the domain to resolve the issue lies with the police only.

The aggrieved crusher owner has recently again moved the high court against this ‘royalty’ and also for police protection from the mafia.

This ‘royalty’ was also highlighted in the court of justice Rajive Bhalla, who then asked the special investigation team (SIT) to probe “the role of mafia” in particular in this mining business.

Nearly a year later, the SIT headed by IG Nir mal Singh Dhillon has been able to get several extensions to finish the job.

WHAT OF PATHANKOT FIRS
The HT expose of plundering of the Ravi riverbed near Pathankot, in October 2013, had then led the Punjab and Haryana high court chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul take suo motu notice following which FIRs were registered against 132 crusher owners.

During the raids, these units had failed to prove the legality of raw material, worth roughly 50 crore, found at their sites. Six months on, the number of these accused crusher owners has come down to 17, as a majority of them managed the receipts from the Jammu mining quarries, to prove the legality of the raw material.

The case of five FIRs is still pending in the local Pathankot court, with the challan yet to filed by the Pathankot police.

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