Guv’s Admn scraps open tenders of river blocks allotted to ‘favourites’

Many Govt projects, public suffer

Gopal Sharma
JAMMU, Mar 15: The Governor’s Administration has scrapped the open auction of the minor mineral bocks of various rivers, streams and Nallahs conducted after 2016 just to accommodate a few ‘blue eyed’ people and directed the Director Geology and Mining and all the District Mining Officers to go for e-auction.
Highly placed sources told the Excelsior that the Governor’s Administration 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 all the 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 Poonch, Rajouri, Reasi, Jammu, Samba, Doda, Ramban, Kishtwar and Udhampur.
The sources revealed that after the internal inquiry, the Advisor concerned and the Chief Secretary directed the Administrative department to cancel this ‘illegal auction ’ and till the e-tendering/ auction process is put in place in transparent manner, the old existing mechanism would continue. It was also directed through this Govt order that the procedure of mining plan approval, fixation of reserve bid amount and frequency of royalty deposition would be addressed by issuing directions under the existing rules.
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 and Pargwal areas. The same was the position in other districts as well.
The department failed to conduct auction in Kathua following some dispute despite the fact that auction process was commenced twice in presence of representative from the DC office. The Deputy Commissioners were the chairpersons of each auction committee and a representative/ ADC from his office was deputed during this process. The royalty rates of the sand, stones and Bazra were also hiked manifold by the firm by its sweet will exerting more burden on the general public, the sources added.
Now, with the new Govt order No. IND/Legal-239/2018 dated 26-2-2019, the mining activity has come to halt across the state. The DMOs and their staff have stopped collecting royalty and they are seizing scores of vehicles every day coming out from rivers and Nallahs with sand stones and Bazri etc and those who had managed opened auction have also stopped their operation. The infrastructure development activity has been badly affected and more over supply to the Government projects like- roads, bridges and buildings etc has also been hit. General public who have initiated construction works are also affected.
Director Geology and Mining, J&K, Farooq Khan when contacted admitted that Government has scrapped open auction of river blocks across the State conducted after 2016. He said the process of e-auction would start from first week of April. The department is making preparation for the same. A new portal is being created. He said till the new process is installed, the old existing mechanism through department staff would operate.
Responding to a question, the Director G&M said that department works would not be allowed to suffer. They will pay a fixed royalty amount against the material used from river mining. The general public has to wait for some time as some people have gone to the court also in Kashmir and the outcome is still awaited. At present the firms/ contactors who had secured open auction, have been debarred to carry out any mining activity. When asked why open auction was allowed when there were strict Govt guidelines of e-auction and only one family/ firm from Jammu was showered favours, the Director avoided to respond.
He, however, claimed that outcome of the court is expected shortly and the issue would be resolved.
Two DMOs on the condition of without being quoted said that since there were no clear orders from the top, they have started seizure of all the tippers, trolley etc coming from rivers and Nallahs with sand/ stones/ gravel etc. They said scores of vehicles are being seized every day. Till the clear instructions from the top are given, the staff will not start its operation in their respective areas.