Funds not being released to make MSS web-portal operational
Finance Deptt sleeping over files pertaining to check posts, VTS
JAMMU, June 13: The much-talked about better surveillance system for checking illegal mining and transportation of minerals across the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has remained confined to the official papers only because of failure of the Finance Department and Jammu and Kashmir Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation (JKIDFC) to clear the files and release sufficient funds.
Chief Secretary Dr Arun Kumar Mehta, while chairing the meeting of Committee of Secretaries on December 1, 2021, had directed the Geology and Mining Department to ensure better surveillance of minor minerals through technological interventions to check illegal mining and transportation in a time bound manner.
However, till date the decision has remained confined to the official papers only as either the Finance Department has not cleared the files or the Jammu and Kashmir Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation is not releasing funds under the Languishing Projects Scheme even after completion of all the procedural formalities, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
In the year 2016, the Ministry of Mines through Indian Bureau of Mines launched Mine Surveillance System (MSS), which is a satellite-based monitoring system with an objective to establish a regime of responsive mineral administration by curbing instances of illegal mining activity through automatic remote sensing detection technology.
Subsequently, the Ministry of Mines asked all the States/UTs to take up and implement the Mining Surveillance System (MSS) in case of minor minerals. Accordingly, on the request of Geology & Mining Department of J&K Government, IT Section of J&K Small Scale Industries Development Corporation Limited (SICOP) prepared Detailed Project Report (DPR) for developing and maintenance of comprehensive Mine Surveillance System (MSS) web portal.
The work was taken up under Languishing Projects Scheme with approved cost of Rs 2.89 crore. Though the work on the pilot project has been completed yet no funds have been released by JKIDFC for making the system operational even after repeated requests from the Geology and Mining Department and SICOP, sources said.
The delay in making the system operational is notwithstanding the fact that the surveillance system checks area of 500 meters around the existing mining boundary to search for any unusual activity which is likely to be illegal mining and any discrepancy, if found is flagged off as a trigger. The system once established will be highly efficacious for monitoring and regulation of mineral resources of the UT, sources said.
In the Committee of Secretaries meeting held on December 1, 2021, the Chief Secretary had also laid thrust on making hi-tech mineral check posts functional as early as possible but the work is getting delayed again due to non-release of required funds to J&K State Industrial Development Corporation (SIDCO), the executing agency, by JKIDFC, sources informed.
Under the Languishing Projects Scheme, 61 hi-tech mineral check posts on important exit points and strategic locations are to be established in various districts of Kashmir province and 50 across Jammu province. “Some check posts with CCTV have already been developed and handed over to Geology and Mining Department but the fate of remaining is hanging in balance for want of funds”, sources said.
Similarly, it was decided quite long time back that Vehicle Tracking System (VTS) for mineral transportation will be introduced to check illegal transportation. However, the system is still existing on the papers only.
The Department of Geology and Mining invited Expression of Interest (EoI) for empanelment of vendors for installation of Vehicle Tracking Devices with Load Sensors on the vehicles engaged in transportation of minor minerals and after completion of necessary exercise the file was submitted to the Finance Department for approval. However, no decision has been taken by the Finance Department on empanelment of vendors, sources said, adding “the non-serious approach on the part of the Finance Department is despite the fact that once implemented, the project would be of immense help in tracking the vehicles en route, quantity of minerals being transported and as such will go a long way in checking the illegal extraction/transportation of minerals and loss to the Government exchequer”.
When contacted, an officer of the Geology and Mining Department, who is privy to the development on all these aspects, confirmed that decisions taken in the Committee of Secretaries meeting have yet not been translated into reality.
While wishing anonymity, the officer said, “we are waiting for the approval of the Finance Department and release of funds by JKIDFC”.