Villagers of Gurabandha block in East Singhbhum district have opposed the government’s move to give emerald-mining lease to outsiders.
They held a protest meet at Kurian village, a Maoist stronghold, with traditional weapons on Sunday under the banner of ‘Jal, Jangal, Jamin Suraksha Samiti’ (Water, land and forest protection committee).
Police said Maoists were instigating villagers against mining lease to stop officials from coming to the area and keep the funds flow from illegal mining intact.
A report from the police’s special branch estimated that proceeds from the emerald mining are adding Rs 25 lakh to Rs 35 lakh to the coffers of the Maoists every month.
“Maoists do not want government’s intervention in the area as it is a core forest area. Maoists feel they would lose villagers’ support so they are instigating them to oppose any move to hand over the mines to other parties,” said a police official.
The state mining and geological department has completed a survey on the feasibility of emerald mining in Gurabandha, about 60km from Jamshedpur and bordering Odisha.
“The area is having a rich deposit of emerald,” said a survey team member. District mining officer Sanjeev Mandal said, “The lease process for emerald mining for Gurabandha will start in March-April 2016.”
Addressing the protesting villagers, panchayat pramukh Joboty Murmu said, “Emerald is found in our land, therefore we have the first right on it. We are not going to allow emerald mining lease to outsiders.”
Hombai Baskey, a panchayat mukhia, said, “Mining will spoil environment and destroy greenery. Infiltration of outsiders will also cause trouble here.” Gurucharan Munda, a villager, said, “If emerald mining is done by outsiders, our people will become unemployed and die of hunger.”
Mosaboni deputy superintendent of police Bimal Kumar said, “I had called the villagers and tried to make them understand that emerald mining will help development in their area and their economic condition will get a boost.”
Mining of rough green stones began in 2010 and some 400 labourers work in rocky ridges in Gudabanda. A gang of smugglers transports the precious stones to polishing hubs and markets in other states.
In the past two years, there have been only three seizures of illegally mined emeralds. Experts say the stones found in Gudabanda are of “medium” quality.
In the jewellery markets of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, these stones fetch Rs 3500 per carat after being cleaned and polished.