Mining Mafia Targets Border Districts of Himachal

Himachal This Week Team       Cover Story

Himachal This Week Illegal mining activities are going on unabatedly in Himachal despite ban on mining, especially in border areas adjoining neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana. The state government had notified Himachal’s Mining Policy last year but National Green Tribunal imposed ban on certain provisions. Thousands of vehicles can be seen carrying extracted mineral to adjoining states by using various means to evade checking in districts like Una, Kangra, Sirmaur and Solan. It is not only causing loss to state exchequer but also resulting in damage to environment, pedestrian paths, pasturelands and water supply schemes besides turning fertile cultivable land into barren pieces. Though 37 officers of 37 departments have been authorised to check illegal mining activities, yet people associated with mining mafia are carrying on extraction of minerals unabatedly in this hilly state to mint money.

Objections to Himachal’s Mining Policy

National Green Tribunal had raised certain objections to Himachal’s Mining Policy whose draft was notified on August 24, 2013. It had the provision of granting mining lease located on banks of rivers and khads to promote it commercially. The policy had the provision to promote mineral outsourcing but NGT has banned it. The policy has also enhanced the sphere of inspection and granted powers to 37 departmental officers to check illegal mining activities. There were many other provisions in the policy that aimed at increasing state revenue. Proposal of resources mobilisation committee included provision of granting mining lease as neighbouring Uttrakhand is earning Rs 400 crore annualy from it.

Mukesh Agnihotri* Strict action has been taken against illegal mining but National Green Tribunal is yet to take decision on many provisions of state’s mining policy. Special task force has been deployed in border areas and flying squads have been constituted for curtailing illegal mining.

-Mukesh Agnihotri Industries Minister 

Hillocks being Razed for Mineral in Una

Himachal This Week Illegal mining is going on unabatedly in border areas abutting Punjab with mafia people quarrying sand, boulders and other minerals without any fear. Only four to five crushers out of a total of more than two dozen crushers in the district have clearance from the Union Forest and Environment Department. Despite a ban on the mining of minor minerals, the illegal activities are going on in the district in Swan River, nullahs and rivers in the area. Main focus of mining mafia is on boulders and most prone areas for mining include Bangarh, Chatara, and Jakhera. Mining mafia had levelled hillocks to extract boulders that has allegedly been utilised in channelisation of Swan River project. Bigger size boulders are being extracted by digging 20 to 30 foot deep with the help of machines. Bhavour Sahib Irrigation scheme near Pukhru is also under threat as it supply pipes have been damaged due to digging by machines. Mehatpur IPH subdivision has even complained in writing to the Mining Department and Flood Division to take strict action against mining mafia people. However, different departments are hesitant to take action in this serious issue by passing on the buck.

-By Jatinder Kanwar/Una

* Strict action is being taken against illegal mining activities after receiving complaints from certain areas of the district

– Neeraj Kant District Mining Officer, Una

Clandestine Mining in Paonta Sahib

Himachal This Week Despite ban on mining activities, such activities are going on clandestinely in Paonta Sahib area with mining mafia targeting nullahs, rivers and hillocks to extract minerals. Nearly one dozen crushers are located on banks of Yamuna River who have permission to only lift stocks. Surprisingly, their stock is not finishing even as permission was granted about a year ago. Sources reveal that crushers have an arrangement with local people who supply them minerals through tractors clandestinely after extracting them illegally from nullahs and rivers. Mining mafia is targeting Yamuna, Bata and Giri rivers in addition to Banaur, Nalta khad and Chitli Pamta areas in Trans Giri for extracting limestone and marble stone. No other department barring police and forest are exercising their powers to check mining activities even as 36 departments have been authorised to take action.

*     90 cases of illegal mining detected in three months

*     Vehicles impounded in 69 cases

*     Nine cases pending in court, action in others

*     Rs 3.75 lakh recovered as fine in these cases

-Dinesh Pundir/Paonta Sahib

* Raids are regularly conducted to check illegal mining activities despite shortage of staff in the department

-Suresh Bhardwaj District Mining Officer, Sirmaur

Modus Operandi

Crushers overload trucks with more than 25 tones mineral for sending to neighbouring states while carrying a 9 tones capacity slip. They deposit the fine if intercepted at the interstate barrier otherwise mint money. Sources said, adding that the same slip is being used many times during one day. Limestone and marble stone is also routed to Sataun and Puruwala market in connivance with sanctioned mine owners.  Mining mafia of Haryana is active in adjoining Kala Amb area of Himachal. Activities of such people are at peak during night. The industries department had banned the vehicles carrying quarry material from plying between 8:00 pm to 6:00 am and they are not supposed to cross the inter-state barriers. But the presence of large number of escape routes and limited staff at the border fails to check their operations and this step too failed to yield any beneficial results.

Areas Prone to Illegal Mining

Kangra     Chakki, Khanni, Tika Pul, Hadal Banduhi, Khanni Sikli and adjoining areas

Sirmaur    Khajiar, Badwas, Chilon, Heyona,, Chowki, Bagandhar, Pamta, Kala Amb, Paonta Sahib, Chhitli, Yamuna River,  Bata River, markanda, Giri, Tauns, in Kamrau area, Trans Giri area

Solan       Entire baddi, Brotiwala and Nalgarh area

Una         Swan River and areas adjoig bordering Punjab

Land Rendered Barren in Kangra

Himachal This Week Mining mafia is accumulating money through unscientific Illegal mining activities in areas of Kangra district adjoining neighbouring states but fertile land in such areas is being rendered barren. According to available figures, 26,000 acre land in villages surrounding Chakki area has become barren due to mining activities as farmers find themselves in hapless situation before the powerful mining mafia. Illegal mining activities have destroyed pasturelands, pedestrian roads leading to farmland, damaging lift drinking water schemes. Chakki Khad, which had a width of I km, has now been reduced to a 10 meter wide nullah. All pleas by villagers against the stone mafia have proved futile as the administration has reportedly turned a blind eye towards this practice.

-By SK Atri/Jassur

Affecting Environment in Sirmaur

Illegal mining activities are going on in nullahs, rivers and hillocks to extract various minerals. Known for mining activities, nearly 90% of the 70 mines in the district have been closed due to ban on quarrying but those who have mining lease are minting money. Illegal activities are not only affecting environment and resulting in soil erosion but also causing loss to the state exchequer.

-Surat Pundir/Nahan

* More than 200 vehicles are engaged daily to extract mineral thus making the land barren in Chakki area of Kangra district

-Paras Ram President, Chakki Bachao Sangharsh Samiti

Damage to Riverbeds in BBN Area

The large scale illegal mining in Baddi Barotiwala and Nalagarh areas has become a cause of concern for the environmentalists. Such activities are generally carried out during evenings to extract and export minerals to border areas of Punjab and Haryana. Since there is a ban on all mining activities in Punjab and Haryana, border area of BBN has become major supplier of sand and cut stones to builders of neighbouring states. High profits earned by tractor owners have lured them into this illegal trade.

The high profits earned by those indulging in illegal mining has also led them to attack government officers like SDM, police officers who were checking this illicit activity in this industrial belt in the recent past.  Mining Department, primarily responsible to check this activity faces severe staff shortage and keeping this handicap in sight the state government had authorized officers of PWD, Forest, IPH, Forest, police and other departments to assist in checking of this activity. However it has failed to motivate officers and the government notification has been reduced to a paper formality only.

Nalagarh faces a unique situation where nearly 2800 tractors are notified for commercial use and they are used for carrying quarry material like sand and gravels. They feed the stone crushers located in bordering Punjab and operate day and night. Though tractors are usually registered only for agriculture activity but their registration as commercial vehicles is a government approval for their illegal use. This is a major reason for the large scale unchecked illegal mining in the BBN industrial belt. The administration says they were conducting raids day and night but the area has several escape routes being used by the mafia people.

– Vipin Sharma/Nalagarh

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