Despite scrapping open tenders of river blocks by Guv’s Admn, mafia still controls mining activity in J&K

Rs 71.65 lakh outstanding in Reasi, exercise in other Distt stalled

Gopal Sharma
JAMMU, Oct 14: Despite scrapping of `illegal contract’ through open tenders granted to a `few favourites’ for the river blocks by the Governor’s Administration in entire Jammu and Kashmir during March this year, the `mafia’ is still controlling the mining activity in the State.
Highly placed official sources told the Excelsior that the mafia dealing with the `grey-gold’ has turned so influential that it has not only managed to continue the minor mineral activity in rivers and nallahs of the region, but also forced some officials at the helm of affairs to stall the process of assessment of royalty dues against the ‘bidders’ on account of consuming of minor mineral in all other districts after completion of this work in Reasi district.
Sources revealed that all the mess is not only in district Kathua, where huge outstanding worth crores have been worked out by the special survey team constituted by the Deputy Commissioner in the recent past, but in Jammu, Samba, Udhampur, Rajouri, Reasi, Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts as well, the things are not good in the Geology and Mining Department.
A small district like Reasi has worked out the royalty dues worth over Rs 71.65 lakhs against the ‘successful bidder’ by the District Mineral Officer of G&M Department and his team this year, one can guess how much quantum of recovery could be there in Jammu, Samba, Rajouri, Ramban, Kishtwar and Doda.
The DMO Reasi in his letter No. DMO/Reasi/CL/2019-20/77-80 dated 25-05-2019 communicated to Joint Director G&M Jammu, has projected the royalty outstanding worth Rs 71,65,190 against contractor Chaman Lal of Channi Himmat, Jammu. In his letter, the DMO also conveyed to the higher authorities about ruthless violation and illegal mining in the un-auctioned areas, causing environmental degradation besides huge loss to the Government exchequer, but interestingly, no action has been taken against the `blue eyed’ man by the top officers for the reason best known to them. Even the Department has failed to effect recovery from the contractor.
Sources further revealed that in Jammu district, where royalty dues worth over Rs 2 crores were worked out some time back were lying pending and the same exercise which was going on in other districts to effect recovery from the successful bidders , was stalled for the reason best known to those at the helm of affairs, thus causing huge loss to the Government exchequer.
Interestingly, the rates of the royalty of gravel, sand and stones has gone double. Even the rates of material per trolley and tipper have also turned double during past 6-7 months. The general public is being crushed with the additional burden but the `mafia has been given the free hand to fix rates as per their sweet will while the concerned authorities in the G&M Department, Legal Meteorology Department and even the respective District Administrations are least bothered about the public plight.
Sources said the Governor’s Administration led by Satya Pal Malik after receiving several complaints with regard to control of ‘mining- mafia’ on the river blocks and Nallahs, specially in Jammu region in connivance with some key officers of the Geology and Mining Department and high pilferage of the State revenue, initiated a secret inquiry and establishment that some officers just to accommodate a single influential family/ entity, have allotted tenders during last one and half years in nine districts of Jammu region excluding Kathua, in sheer violation of standing norms.
Despite strict Government guidelines and instructions to the HoDs of all the departments for conducting e-tenders/ e-auction in all the departments, the officers at the helm of affairs conducted open auction of many river/ stream/ nallah blocks in all the districts across the State. The mafia, ruling the roost since long, again managed to take control of `grey gold’ in the State. Interestingly, single entity/ firm secured auction in Jammu, Samba, Udhampur, Poonch, Rajouri, Reasi, Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar.
The sources revealed that the Governor ‘s Administration directed the Administrative department to cancel this `illegal auction ‘ and till the e-tendering/ auction process is put in place in transparent manner, they directed that old existing mechanism would continue. The DMOs were also asked to return the dues of the bidders.
The sources in the G&M Department said that only in district Jammu, hardly 45 % of the river blocks were auctioned but a `single firm’ had taken control of the 100 % blocks unofficially and their musclemen were collecting royalty illegally from un-auctioned blocks specially in Akhnoor, Khour, Pargwal, Nagrota, Panjgrain, Bajalta and other areas. The same was the position in other districts as well. The department failed to conduct auction in Kathua, despite the fact that auction process was commenced thrice in presence of representative from the DC office.
After the Govt order No. IND/Legal-239/2018 dated 26-2-2019, the mining activity came to halt across the State temporarily. But after some time, the same blue eyed people managed their activity. They were actually only successful bidders and not lease holders. After this as per NGT guidelines, environment assessment and its clearance is must from the MOEF, besides Mining Plan. The mining should be done only after erecting Pucca Pillar markings, showing boundary of the leased area. There after, the lease is granted to the party but the work was initiated in most of the cases in sheer violation of standing NGT and MOEF guidelines, the sources added.
A senior officer in Geology and Mining Deptt when contacted said that the Government had scrapped the open auction of river blocks some time back . He said the process of e-auction has been initiated. A new portal is also being created. But the bidders went to the court and managed stay. He claimed that Department is pursuing the case in the court. On stoppage of exercise on working of outstanding royalty amount against bidders/ contractors, and non-recovery from Reasi and other districts, he said it was not under his domain. Higher authorities in Administrative Department can respond in better way. But the Government would recover its outstanding amount from the contractor.