Illegal mining in Mohali: Five depts on the job without coordination
Even as Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh in March was able to spot “illegal mining” in parts of Punjab during an aerial surveillance in March, his government has yet to address concerns hampering the drive to contain it.
In Mohali, five departments are involved in the drive to rein in illegal mining. But thanks to lack of coordination, success is far from their reach.
Five departments — district admissions, police, mining wing, excise and taxation, and forest — are the stakeholder departments responsible to control illegal mining in Mohali district. All departments have different explanations and justifications for failure to control the menace, but the apparent reason is lack of coordination.
On Thursday, when Kharar SDM Amaninder Kaur Brar razed some mining sites in her sub-division, she had to call the deputy commissioner, who rang up V Neerja, inspector general of police (IGP), Ropar Range, for police intervention.
Ironically, a cop from the Mullanpur police station was present on the spot, but, sources said, he left citing jurisdiction issues. “There were some issues due to which I had to call the deputy commissioner who resolved then,” Brar said.
On his part, Mohali senior superintendent of police (SSP) Kuldeep Singh Chahal said, “We also have our constraints. Coordination is a major issue. Even if we go to the site after some information, if we do not have proper documentation or revenue records, enforcement will not be effective. Here comes the role of other departments.”
The district administration also rues the absence of coordination among the stakeholders. “Every department has their role defined. But if one of us fails to perform the duty, the drive will not fulfil the purpose. Coordination is the main concern that needs addressing, otherwise all efforts will go in vain,” said additional district magistrate CS Mann.
The mining wing has its own concerns with constant infighting between the general manager (GM), District Industry Centre (DIC), that manages the affairs of the wing, and the district mining officer, who is responsible for checking mining activities. Yet, the wing blames the police for tardy investigation. “We keep raiding sites across the district and file complaints with the police. Rest of the investigation falls under the purview of the police,” said DIC GM Tehal Singh.
Forest department, whose officer was assaulted earlier this week by some suspected sand miners in Majri, say they have a little area to guard, but still without police support, all were at risk. “Police need to strengthen their force, as these illegal mining issues become a law and order problem,” said Guramanpreet Singh, district forest officer, Mohali. None from the excise and taxation department was willing to be quoted, but a senior officer said, “Police has all the power, sources and resources. Other departments have constraints.”
What are other constraints?
Staff shortage is the prime concern for these government departments tasked with reining in illegal mining. Police department in Mohali has 2,700 sanctioned posts, but only around 1,800 are filled up. With over 30% of vacancies, the department is maintaining law and order in a district with a population of 10 lakh. Worse, police face issues with permissions and land titling.
Forest department has also around 15% posts of guards lying vacant. Another concern is that they are unable to send female women forest officials for “hard” duties.
The industry department is also facing staff shortage. It has eight guards of which six are serving in Rupnagar.
Though the district administration is tasked with just raiding spots, it cannot do much in absence of support from other departments.