A devotee prays to the bricks expected to be used in construction of the Ram temple, in Ayodhya on November 11, 2019. (AP)
A devotee prays to the bricks expected to be used in construction of the Ram temple, in Ayodhya on November 11, 2019. (AP)

Rajasthan to hold e-auction of rare sandstone blocks

On paper, there has been no mining in the area since 2016, but illegal mining has continued and the pink Bansi Paharpur sandstone has been available in the grey market.
By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Jaipur
UPDATED ON JUN 14, 2021 01:56 AM IST

The Rajasthan government will soon hold online auction of mining blocks of the unique pink Bansi Paharpur sandstone, which is going into the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya, as the central government has given in-principle approval for converting 398 hectares of forestland into revenue land, an official said. Bansi Paharpur, until now, was part of the Bandh Baretha wildlife sanctuary in Bharatpur where no mining can happen.

Additional chief secretary mines and petroleum Dr Subodh Agrawal said the approval by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) has paved the way for the preparation of mining blocks in Bansi Paharpur and their e-auction. “Now, legal mining will take place in the area,” he said.

On paper, there has been no mining in the area since 2016, but illegal mining has continued and the pink Bansi Paharpur sandstone has been available in the grey market. Last year, the Bharatpur administration cracked down on illegal mining and seized several truckloads of this stone. As supply dwindled, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) issued a warning that supply of the stone shouldn’t stop as that might impede Ram temple construction.

“It was a sensitive issue for the Rajasthan government given the demand for the stone for Ram temple construction,” Agrawal said.

In view of it, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot directed officials to stop illegal mining of the stone and take steps to legalise it. Following that, in March this year, Bansi Paharpur was taken out of the wildlife sanctuary area in Bharatpur, Agrawal said.

The current MoEFCC nod, the officer said, came on June 11. “The department will soon hold the delimitation work in this area and prepare blocks for e-auction. According to a rough estimate about, 70 blocks are likely to be developed in this area,” said Agrawal, adding that all effort is being made to complete the delimitation process by the end of this month so that the auction can happen through the central government’s portal at the earliest.

VHP secretary Suresh Upadhyay welcomed the move and thanked the Rajasthan CM as well as the central government for allowing mining in the area. BJP MLA and former state minister Vasudev Devnani seconded him and said a grand Ram temple needs to be built without hassles as it symbolises the faith of crores of people.

Legalised mining will also create direct and indirect employment for thousands of locals and mineral industries will come up, Agrawal said. He also said that the state government is likely to earn revenue of 500 crore from the e-auction.

Bharatpur and Dholpur are famous for red sandstone, but the Bansi Paharpur variety has a pinkish hue which makes it more beautiful and stronger, said a trader requesting anonymity.

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