Despite ban, illegal mining unabated in Ravi belt

J&K Mining Department officials engaged in strong arguments with a Punjab politician over illegal mining in river Ravi in Kerrian Gandyal area at Kathua district on Tuesday.
J&K Mining Department officials engaged in strong arguments with a Punjab politician over illegal mining in river Ravi in Kerrian Gandyal area at Kathua district on Tuesday.

Mining team of J&K threatened by Punjab mafia

Avtar Bhat
KATHUA, Jan 28: Despite the ban, the illegal mining continued unabated in Ravi basin in Kerrian Gandyal area of Kathua district which has resulted into public out cry as the illegitimate action by mining mafia has posed a grave threat to the newly constructed Rs 160 crore bridge over the river Ravi as well as flora and fauna in the area.
The alarming situation caused by the illegal mining in the area and the lawlessness created by the mafia elements can be gauged from the fact that a team of senior officials of J&K Mining Department who visited the Ravi belt in Kerrian Gandyal area today to take action against the illegal mining were threatened by the mafia after they chased some dumpers and tippers extracting stones and Bajri from the river belt fled towards Punjab.
As the vehicles loaded with stones and Bajri entered Punjab territory, the mafia having the patronage of an influential local politician who also runs a crusher in the area, tried to attack the officials of Mining Department and gave a severe threatening to them forcing them to beat a hasty retreat and call police from district Headquarter Kathua for help.
Sources said after the reports of illegal mining, the Geological and Mining Department has tightened its noose against the mining mafia in the area who mostly belonged to neighboring Punjab State and were running crushers in the area. Sources said taking cognizance of the protests held by local people of Kerrian Gandyal and complaints received by higher ups in Geological Mining Department it had deputed a team of senior officers to investigate the matter and also take punitive action against the illegal mining in the area besides sealing the crushers and seizing the machinery and vehicles used for illegal mining in the Ravi belt falling under the jurisdiction of J&K UT.
Source said that illegal mining has taken such an alarming situation during last two weeks in the Ravi belt that about 200 to 300 tippers loaded with sand, stones and Bajri are being dug from the river belt in the area during night hours every day. This is posing the lot of threat to the newly constructed bridge in the area as well as flora and fauna because the water level in Ravi belt has depleted to extreme low level which is a cause of concern for the local residents as well as environmentalist, sources added.
Sources said since the abolition of Toll Plaza on January 1 this year, the J&K Excise Toll Post lying in the area was also lifted and the mining mafia had a field day since then as there is no check on the vehicles involved in illegally lifting of sand, stones and Bajri from Ravi basin from J&K side. Earlier these vehicles were subjected to Toll Tax on the check post and they were hesitating to pass through the area due to threat of paying heavy toll, sources added.
Ravi River Action Committee led by its president, Mohinder Paul Sharma has been protesting against the illegal mining in the area and some people fed up with unabated illegal mining in the area had also made written complaints with the Department.
Sources said taking cognizance of the same, Director, Geology and Mining J&K Vikas Sharma had deputed a team of senior officers led by Joint Director of the Department, Ashwani Kumar Sharma and one Deputy Director, District Mining Officer, Rajinder Singh Bandral and other senior officers to take on spot action against illegal mining in the area.
The Joint Director and his team after reaching the area in Ravi belt today found some dumpers taking the mining material from J&K side towards Punjab and they chased them up to Punjab territory where a crusher of local Punjab politician Joginder Paul is situated. As the team reached near the crusher the staff of the Joginder Paul objected saying that it was the jurisdiction of Punjab and not J&K hence they can’t take action against the dumper operators.
The heated exchanged ensued between the J&K officials of Mining Department and staff of the crusher belonging to local politician of Punjab. Even the musclemen of the politician tried to threaten the officials with the help of Punjab police which had reached the spot on the call of the local politician who was also present on the spot. In the meantime, the officers of Geology Department also approached the Kathua Police and a team of police led by Additional SP Kathua, Ramnish Gupta and Dy SP, K D Bhagat reached the spot and there were arguments between the two groups of Punjab Police and J&K officials. The dispute ensued over the jurisdiction as Punjab police said that the area falls in their territory while the officials of Mining Department maintained that the material has been illegally extracted from the Ravi basing falling in the J&K territory.
Mohinder Paul, president, Ravi Action Committee which held a strong protest against illegal mining by Punjab mining mafia following the action of Punjab politician and his men told Excelsior that the people of the Kerrian Gandyal area were scared due to illegal mining as the river bed has been dug at various places from 15 to 20 feet down. “We lost three youth in the deep ditches dug due to mining after they were drowned in deep water”. The water level in the area has gone down and the Kerrian Gandyal bridge is also facing a grave threat in case the unabated mining continues, he added.
He said the link road to Ramnagar Gandyal has also been totally damaged as 200 to 300 tippers and dumpers are taking out the mining material via that road every night.
When contacted Director Geology and Mining J&K, Vikas Sharma admitted that he has received various complaints about illegal mining in the area especially during night hours and so he deputed a team of senior officers to the area to ascertain the situation and take punitive action against the mining mafia. He said the detailed report will reach to him tomorrow.
Joint Director Geology and Mining, Ashwani Kumar Sharma who led the team while admitting that the mining material was being taken from J&K area in loaded dumpers said that when they tried to seize the dumpers, some people from Punjab resisted the same. He said his team sealed one crusher, seized three dumpers and one crane being used for illegal mining in the area.
DC Kathua, O P Bhagat said that he has asked a senior officer to probe the matter and furnish a detailed report.