Clamp down on il­le­gal min­ing in Aravalli sprouts small dig­gers

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE - Kar­tikey Dev Singh

Al­war/Gurugram/Faridabad: The Supreme Court’s crack­down on il­le­gal min­ing in the Aravalli range has forced il­le­gal min­ers out of busi­ness. How­ever, the il­licit prac­tice con­tin­ues in small pock­ets in the dead of night, amid lack of sur­veil­lance and polic­ing.

As in­fra­struc­ture and con­struc­tion projects abound, the hunger for raw ma­te­ri­als grows rav­en­ous. It is not un­com­mon for il­le­gal min­ers to be ac­com­pa­nied by an­ti­so­cial el­e­ments car­ry­ing firearms to ward off other gangs and even cops.

Now, lo­cal gangs feed the con­struc­tion in­dus­try in Ut­tar Pradesh and Haryana, which re­main the main mar­ket for a steady sup­ply of stones and min­er­als. In Ra­jasthan, dodgy min­ers dig for grit stone, which holds high value due to its ver­sa­til­ity in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try. The Aravalli range starts from Gu­jarat and move north­wards to Delhi and Ut­tar Pradesh via Ra­jasthan. Gifted with a bounty of nat­u­ral re­sources, per­mits have been is­sued by the four states for le­gal min­ing.

“There was a time when the mafia used to op­er­ate in the day­time,” says Ra­jen­dra Singh, Su­per­in­ten­dent of Po­lice, Al­war dis­trict in Ra­jasthan. “Over 90 per cent of il­le­gal min­ing in the area has stopped, but there have been in­stances of il­le­gal min­ing in the dead of night. It is not as or­gan­ised as it was in the past, but lo­cals dig at an aban­doned site or at ap­proved sites. When we get timely in­for­ma­tion, we act against it.”

Author­i­ties says the op­er­a­tions are a nexus be­tween lo­cal goons, vil­lagers, anti-so­cial el­e­ments, small­time politi­cians and in some in­stances, even pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives. In some re­gions, such as Neem Ka Thana in Ra­jasthan, lo­cals are ris­ing up against the as­sault on na­ture.

“Sev­eral of the hills in our area have been wiped out or dis­fig­ured by il­le­gal min­ing,” says re­tired Army jawan Jairam Singh Tan­war of Dabla vil­lage. “De­spite the crack­down, lo­cals go to the base of any hill with a trac­tor and trol­ley, and start dig­ging. No one can see them at night when they ferry out the stones,” Tan­war adds.

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