Geology & Mining Deptt dilly-dallying on implementation
*PRI representatives fuming, say nexus creating hurdles
JAMMU, Jan 23: The much-hyped decision of the Government of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir about giving rights to the Panchayats for carrying out mining activities has remained on papers only despite lapse of several months due to dilly-dallying approach on the part of the Geology and Mining Department.
This has led to strong resentment among the representatives of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), who alleged that existing nexus between the mafia and the officials of the Geology and Mining Department was creating hurdles in translating the decision into reality.
The decision about devolution of mining rights to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) through short term permits was taken by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory in the month of July last year in order to financially empower the grass root level democratic institutions in the rural areas.
Accordingly, the Industries and Commerce Department in the month of August last year issued a notification conferring mining rights to the Panchayats in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 15 read with Section 23C of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.
By way of this notification, the Government carried out amendments in the J&K Minor Mineral Concession, Storage, Transportation of Minerals and Prevention of Illegal Mining Rules, 2016. In the notification, it was mentioned that short term permit up to one hectare will be granted to the Panchayati Raj Institutions for the mining activities.
Moreover, in order to facilitate the Panchayati Raj Institutions the Government exempted requirement of payment of advance royalty by these grass root level democratic institutions and Geology and Mining Department was directed to apply and secure clearances like Mining Plans, Environmental Clearance and Consent to Operate from the competent authorities on behalf of the Panchayats.
“This provision will be applicable till September 30, 2021 or till such period as may be notified by the Government”, read the notification issued on August 18, 2020.
However, despite lapse of five months the much-hyped decision of the Government has remained on papers only because of dilly-dallying approach on the part of the Geology and Mining Department, official sources told EXCELSIOR, adding “the procedural formalities are taking undue long time in the department despite the fact that the provision is applicable till September this year only”.
“Whether the Panchayats will be able to reap the benefit of the decision taken by the Government is not clear as nobody knows when the formalities will be completed by the Geology and Mining Department and short term permits will be formally issued”, sources further said, adding “even after issuance of permits the Panchayats will have to work out the modalities for carrying out mining activities which again is a time consuming exercise in the light of the fact that such a mechanism has been devised for the first time”.
It was stated at the time of issuance of notification that Geology and Mining Department will identify around 100 blocks at the initial stage and then necessary information will be shared with the Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj. However, till date the Rural Development Department has not received any official communication about identified blocks, sources informed.
“Neither we have been communicated about blocks identified for mining activities by the Panchayats nor any information vis-a-vis obtaining of environment clearance although both the Directors of the Rural Development Department have already been issued instructions to act promptly soon after the receipt of necessary details from the Geology and Mining Department”, said a senior officer of the Rural Development Department.
An officer of the Geology and Mining Department, when contacted, said, “we are in the process of preparing Mining Plans and obtaining Environmental Clearance and Consent to Operate from the competent authorities”.
However, sources said that if the department was facing difficulty in completion of this exercise it should have taken up the matter with the Government for issuance of necessary instructions to the concerned authorities especially in the light of the fact that provision of granting mining permits to Panchayats is applicable till September 30 this year.
The inordinate delay in translating Government’s much talked about decision into reality has led to strong resentment among the PRI representatives, who alleged that existing nexus between officers of the Geology and Mining Department and mafia was creating hurdles.
“It seems that Geology and Mining Department is dilly-dallying under the pressure of mafia and those politicians who are already in the mining business”, Anil Sharma, President of All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference said.
According to the sources, genuine stone crushers are being harassed by the Geology and Mining Department but the influential ones particularly those having nexus with the police and politicians are being spared.
“There are a number of stone crushers particularly in Nagrota, Majalta and adjoining areas which are not being touched even after openly violating the norms mainly because they enjoy the patronage of certain officers in the Geology and Mining Department”, sources said, adding “the Government should take serious note of the prevailing situation and ensure that its decision is translated into reality as early as possible”.