Despite SC ban, sand mining rampant, activists blame government
Rights groups complain that successive governments have failed to solve the problem of illegal mining that takes place across river belts and mountainous regions in the state.Updated: Jun 14, 2019 13:38 IST
The murder of 65-yearold Kishore Singh Juliasar ( the president of Ganga Vihar Colony) allegedly mowed down by a truck involved in illegal mining and transport of river sand in Kardhani area has thrown a light on how illegal mining is growing rampantly in the state and to the extent mining mafias can go to remove obstacles that come their way.
Rights groups complain that successive governments have failed to solve the problem of illegal mining that takes place across river belts and mountainous regions in the state. Kailash Meena, a social worker fighting against illegal sand and gravel mining in state said that despite repeated orders from the Supreme Court and High Court all governments have failed to curb illegal ‘bajri’ mining in the state.
“A fixed ban on river sand (bajri) mining was imposed in Rajasthan after the Supreme Court expressed dissatisfaction over reports of environmental damage in November, 2017. But the people involved in illegal mining are heavy-weights like politicians, police officers, big corporates, bureaucrats etc. Around 90% mining in state is illegal,” claimed Meena.
Meena added that in front of the officers of the mining department, hundreds of trucks overloaded with illegally extracted river sand passes through various state highways but instead of taking action, the officers of mining department and police just play a mute spectator.
The action taken by various enforcement agencies is just perfunctory, he alleged. The apex court on February 4 had slammed the Rajasthan administration for illegal mining in the Aravali area and said that the entire government machinery in the state was rotten. The Supreme Court said, “The entire government machinery is rotten in Rajasthan, and the officials are hand in glove with those who are indulging in illegal mining in Aravali area of the state.”
A CAG report tabled in Rajatshan Assembly in February last year revealed that the Supreme Court orders on mining are violated. CAG observed that illegal mining activities were rampant in the state and there were inadequacies in preventing illegal mining.
“There was lack of deterrence due to delay in issue of notices raising demand and recovery of the penal amount from illegal miners. Also, there was slackness in implementing policy measures to curb illegal mining,” the report reads.
According to the report, a scrutiny of the records of nine superintending mining engineers (SME) or mining engineers (ME) in five districts - Alwar, Jaipur, Sikar, Rajsamand and Udaipur - revealed that these offices registered 4,072 cases of illegal mining, transportation and storage of minerals during 2011-12 to
2016-17. “Around 98.87 lakh metric tonnes of minerals were found to have been illegally excavated (during 2011-12 to 2016-17). The department, however, could recover only ~ 25.57 crore against the recoverable amount of ~
204.50 crore,” the CAG report on the economic sector for the financial year ended March 31, 2017 said.
Mining mafias are also using the best technologies to dig out sand from river beds. Recently, in February, in a crackdown against illegal river sand mining in Dungarpur’s Som river, police seized 12 high-tech boats fitted with dredging implements.
Police said they were taken aback to find improvised boats in the middle of the river. “The boats had 250mm pipe to dredge fine sand from the river. After draining water from it, the sand is shifted to another boat with another pipe.
Each of these other boats had the capacity to load 10 tonnes of sand,” said Dungapur’s superintendent of police Shankar Dutt Sharma, who supervised the operation.
The high-tech boats were so heavy that police called a team of State Disaster Relief Force (SDRF) from Udaipur to bring them to the riverbank.
According to a local, it costs about ~ 70,000 -~80,000 to prepare each of these boats for dredging sand. The sand mined through these machines is three to five times finer from normal sand and therefore fetch more price. One tonne of these costs between ~ 15,000 and ~18,000, he said.
According to official data of mines department between year 2014 and 2017, 2514 cases of illegal mining were registered across the state by the mining department. The top five states with maximum number of cases were Bhilwara(261), Nagaur(180), Sikar(167), Jaipur (167) and Jhunjhunu (156).
The police department also registered 7,905 cases of illegal transport of river sand. Maximum number of cases were registered in Alwar (2421), Bikaner (1388) and Dhaulpur (811) under different sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act and Rajasthan Mining Rules. Director of mines and geology department Jitendra Kumar Upadhyay said that the top court is of the view that mining across river beds should be banned completely, which is makes the department helpless.
“In order to meet the demand, the department gave permission for river sand mining in small plots across the river beds and for that we conducted auctions but the High Court imposed a stay on the orders and asked the state administration to take directions from the Supreme Court. After which we went to the apex court for their direction and we are waiting for it,” said Upadhyay. He added that our position is that small land titles across rivers should be granted so that the demand can be met and illegal supply stopped.