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Nature’s plunder-2 | Hoshiarpur fields cave in because of illegal mining

Last September, the farmers of this village rose against illegal mining that looked it might cave in their fields. This monsoon, their fear came true, for all this while, the officials concerned took no action.

punjab Updated: Aug 18, 2016 10:28 IST
Prabhjit Singh
Prabhjit Singh
Hindustan Times
Hoshiarpur,illegal mining,monsoon
Kesar Singh sits over his devastated field that caved in with his standing maize crop last month at Kanjupeer village in Hajipur sub-tehsil of Hoshiarpur district. The farm is on the edge of an illegal quarry in the background, where a stone crusher operates. (Ravi Kumar/HT Photo)

Last September, the farmers of this village rose against illegal mining that looked it might cave in their fields. This monsoon, their fear came true, for all this while, the officials concerned took no action.

On July 7, Kesar Singh’s 2-kanal (1/4th of an acre) maize field sank at Kanjupeer village. “I had told the contractor of the adjoining illegal quarry several times to make a barrier and not dig up to the boundary, but he did it on purpose,” said Kesar, abusing the contractor, Gurnam Singh of Moga’s Kot Isse Khan village, who owns two illegal stone crushers in the area.

These units crush unaccounted illegal consignments of boulders from the surrounding pits. Gurnam Singh is wanted in a July 22 illegal-mining case of Hajipur. “We are investigating it,” Hajipur station house officer (SHO) Ranjit Singh said. “All three drivers arrested then are now out on bail.”

Asked about four other cases registered the same day after police raids in the area, the SHO said those, too, were under investigation. Police couldn’t explain who owned the crushers or even the giant machines seized then from different pits. The machines are back in action, with one earth mover digging for boulders and filling tippers in an illegal pit of Fatehpur Kullian.

Police patronage?

Accused Gurnam parried the queries on the details of the first-information report (FIR) against him, and rather boasted: “We met the SSP (Hoshiarpur senior superintendent of police Kuldeep Singh Chahal) and he’ll look into it. I am innocent, framed by anti-mining activists who keep blackmailing me even after I bribe them time and again.”

The crushers were his, he accepted, but said the stone shipments arrived from an official quarry at Sukhchainpur in the Talwara block (on Wednesday, HT reported the plundering of Sukhchainpur hillocks). Asked about the mining contractor’s meeting him for “an inquiry”, the SSP said he had ordered no special investigation. “I get many requests for inquiries and this could be one of those,” he said. “I don’t know Gurnam Singh.”

A Gujjar tribal family had to abandon this house when the plundering of earth brought it to an edge. This pit between Dhamian and Bariana villages of Hajipur sub-tehsil is more than 15 feet wide. Huge land has been usurped this way. (Ravi Kumar/HT Photo)

Tear down and buy

A judicial stay order against illegal quarrying at Fetehpur Kullian did not help affected farmer Dhian Singh.

Mukerian’s additional civil judge had issued this order on May 15, 2015, to bar quarry operator Kashmir Singh from threatening the complainant’s crop and land. This illegal pit was among those that the Hajipur police had raided on July 22. Some of these pits are up to 150 feet deep and the digging is on for eight years.

After the land caved in, cracked, and became uneven, Dhian Singh couldn’t sow paddy this season. “Outlawed diggers use this tactic to force us to sell them our ruined land cheap,” said Dhian Singh’s nephew, Jaswinder Singh.

Plundering never stops

More than a dozen illegal crushers, never sealed in spite of several FIRs by local people, pound hundreds of truckloads of boulders each day and night.

The illegal consignments of sand-boulder mineral arrive from 250 acres of the mined area in 35 villages of Hajipur and Talwara blocks. “The contractor’s men first get the land on annual contract for Rs 3 lakh an acre and then they dig it for boulders. They go for the lands of poor farmers and alcoholics first,” said Dharminder Singh, who heads a joint action committee of villages.

At one place, 20 acres of pit encircles the farmland of six villages — Dhamian, Lubana Kullian, Jeeewanwal, Variowal, Dewal, and Klera. The villagers’ committee is going to move National Green Tribunal (NGT).

Also Read: Nature’s plunder-1 | Earthmovers tear into Shivalik hills of Talwara

First Published: Aug 18, 2016 10:26 IST