The farming families of this Hoshiarpur village have watched the plundering of the forest hill land for four months.
Round-the-clock mining has eroded enough subsoil to start making flash floods and landslides in the downhill village. As earth movers pillage the Shivalik foothills forest for boulders, the stone crusher between two hillocks (where rainwater drops into a seasonal river) growls all night. The link road laid under the Pradhan Mantri Swayam Rozgar Sadak Yojana has gone invisible, run over by tippers and giant machines.
The road has hills on one side and the riverside village on the other. “The rule says nobody can cut the hills, but see for yourself the brazen violation of it here, even though officials were around last month,” said village elder Jaswant Singh. After heavy rain last week, as the stream came rushing through the half-cut hillock, panicked villagers had to plug the breach with sandbags.
NOT THE APPROVED SITE, SHOWS RECORD
Jaswant Singh shows land revenue record to point out how officials from different departments connived to auction a barren land for quarrying and then plunder the adjoining forest hill under its garb.
Sukhchainpur, which is among 83 quarries auctioned across the state last November, has only 1.52 hectares of ‘banjar kadeem’ (non-cultivable barren land) spared for mining but the actual quarrying is on a site outside the list, which isn’t possible without the connivance of the departments of revenue, rural development and panchayat, and forests, besides the mining wing of the industries department.
No worker on the site knew who owned the project. The Sukhchainpur quarry is smallest on the list.
After villagers took the matter to Dasuya divisional forest officer (hills) Wilbert Samson, he came over on July 24 and wrote to the Hoshiarpur deputy commissioner for a detailed inquiry. Mining stopped but only for a week.
“If the hills continue to be mined, Sukhchainpur will cease to exist (because of flash floods),” said Samson. District general manager of industries Subhash Chander refuses to share detailed record with the DFO. DC Anindita Mitra put the onus on the mining wing of the industries department. “The party (operator) had papers to show that the project got the NOCs (no-objection certificates) from the Punjab Pollution Control Board and the mining wing,” she said. “I cannot say more.” Told that the actual mining site was different from the ‘khasra’ mentioned on paper, she said it required investigation.
Dasuya legislator Sukhjit Kaur Sahi of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also sounded helpless. “I am aware of the situation and trying to do whatever I can,” she said.
OF OFFICIAL CONTRADICTIONS
The DC had marked an inquiry to Mukerian subdivisional magistrate (SDM) Harcharan Singh, who said the mining party had failed to show relevant documents. “It cannot continue to work, I will ask the mining wing to take action,” he said, contradicting the DC’s version.
Shivalik hills forest conservator Nirmaljit Singh Randhawa said: “My DFO has done a good job.
We could do little after we found that the revenue record didn’t hold the hillock under the PLPA (Punjab Land Preservation Act). This area was de-listed much before I joined here two months ago,” he said.
Randhawa, however refused to order any inquiry into this de-listing of a forest area. Sections 4 and 5 of the PLPA ban changing the topography of the forest cover. Not even an inch of the ‘namumkin pahad’ (forest hill) can be dug.
TOMORROW: Hajipur fields cave in