Illegal mining goes on unabated in Basanter, Ravi, Ujh rivers under very nose of administration

Illegal mining done under the Ravi Tawi canal aqueduct on river Basanter has exposed this super structure to a grave risk. -Excelsior / Nischant
Illegal mining done under the Ravi Tawi canal aqueduct on river Basanter has exposed this super structure to a grave risk. -Excelsior / Nischant

Mafia rules the roost, bridges on verge of threat

Avtar Bhat

KATHUA/SAMBA, June 30: Throwing all rules and regulations to winds, the Mining mafia rules the roost in twin districts of Samba and Kathua by perpetuating loot of natural resources with authorities at the helm watching as mute spectators.
The unabated illegal mining from various rivers in twin districts continues under the very nose of Geological and Mining Department with mafia mostly from neighboring State of Punjab looting the natural resources from various rivers in both Samba and Kathua districts during night hours. In Kathua district, police has many times swooped on the mafia and seized their machinery and vehicles used for transportation of the mining material from river beds of Ravi and Ujh bordering Punjab.
The illegal mining has not only added to environmental degradation and affected flora and fauna of the area but is posing even threat to the bridge especially in Keriyan Gandyal area and Pandori bridge on river Ujh in Kore Panu area of Kathua district bordering Punjab via Bumail. Even the water level in Keriyan Gandyal area has depleted due to illegal mining and the hand pumps of the people have dried up due to illegal mining as deep ditches have been created in Ravi river bed in the area.
According to sources, the crusher owners from Punjab send their men and machinery during night hours in the Ravi and Ujh river basins to extract sand and stones illegally. The mafia has been given such a long rope that they even encroach upon the private and State land to extract stones and sand under the very nose of administration which till date has failed to curtail the activities of mining mafia and stop the illegal extraction from the rivers of J&K, sources added.
The activities of mining mafia from Punjab has also emboldened the local mafia within Kathua and Samba districts and they have also perpetuated loot of natural resources through illegal mining in the two districts, sources said, adding mostly the building material by the mafia is sold in neighboring Punjab and Haryana where the rates are very high in comparison to J&K.
To earn a good money the mafia after extracting the building material from J&K sells that in Punjab and Haryana, sources said, adding in Punjab barring some rivers the mining is banned and recently the Punjab Government arrested an influential politician who was running some illegal crushers in the State and indulging in illegal mining in the area, sources said.
They said the illegal mining has also led to land erosion adjoining the Ravi and Ujh river banks and despite the Keriyan -Gandyal area being declared as Industrial Estate no proper initiative has been taken to curtail the activities of mining mafia there. While Punjab Government has taken cognisance of illegal mining and tightened its noose on mining mafia in the State, no such action has been seen initiated from the J&K side.
With illegal mining is on increase and the construction material being smuggled to neighboring States to sell the same on higher rates, it has also led to hike in building material rates in this area of the UT also and the crusher owners or construction material contractors demand the rate at their will as the Government has failed to enforce the rates fixed by it properly, sources said.
The same is situation in Samba district where as per reports the mining mafia is very active and they are not deterring from their activities of illegal mining to loot the natural resources from rivers and nallahs. Sources said that the mafia is so emboldened that they have started excavating sand, stones and gravel from Basanter river in front of Chechi Mata temple adjoining Basanter bridge near Samba township under the very nose of the administration.
Ruling the roost, mafia uses the JCBs and other machinery in excavating the mining material from Basanter river bed near the bridges. The JCBs and cranes are being used in excavating the sand and stones from the river. Surprisingly the district administration offices are also lying in the vicinity but no one has so far bothered to take cognisance of the same and act against the mafia, sources said.
They said people of the area fail to understand that when there is a ban on mining around 500 to one KM area of the Basanter and Railway bridges on National Highways, as it can cause damage to the bridges and can lead to a major accident at any time, but mafia with criminal mindset do not care for the same. Moreover, the administration and Geology and Mining Department is also watching as a mute spectator.
Former Sarpanch Reena Chaudhary alleged that at many places the road to the mining blocks is being deliberately diverted by the mafia via a farther place to indulge in illegal mining in between as there is no check from the Department on the same.
Sources said the pillars of Ravi -Tawi canal aqueduct, Basanter bridge and Railway bridge have become naked due to unabated mining in the area and if the same is not checked and mining in the area totally banned there is any apprehension that these bridges may cave in and cause fatal accidents besides a huge damage to public property.
Earlier, the illegal mining was taking place during night hours but now the mafia is fully active during day time, sources added.
Kehli Mandi Panchayat, Sarpanch, Ravinder Singh Lavlu said that the administration and Geology and Mining Department seem to be helpless in front of the mafia as they (mafia) have links with higher ups also otherwise they could not dare to perpetuate loot of natural resources. He said that when people raise their voice against the loot perpetuated by the mafia, the administration just to divert the public attention take action on small dump stations and small drains while the big fish enjoying the patronage go scot free.
He demanded that the administration and Mining Department should turn tuff against the mafia who are posing a threat to ecology by illegal mining .
District Officer of Geology and Mining Department, Samba Mohammad Sayed said that Departmental force has been formed by the district administration and every possible action is taken in case of any complaint. On illegal mining, he said that they are checked from time to time by making surprise raids and if found any one is indulging in illegal mining he is being punished under the law and legal process is initiated against him.
Regarding the mining adjoining the bridges on Basanter river, he said that the river near Chechi Mata temple has changed its course towards the temple and National Highway so the Irrigation and Flood Control Department as well as National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) is digging a channel there to divert the river to save the temple land and National Highway from the damage. He refuted that any illegal mining is going in the area.
He said near railway bridge there is whirlpool beneath the pillars and people consider that it is because of mining which is not a fact actually. He said the Department takes strict action in case any one indulges in illegal mining.
District Geology and Mining Officer, Kathua, Rajinder Singh said that Department makes a strict vigil on mining mafia in the district but they take a chance during holidays or when they know that the officials are not there. “But we make a constant check to ensure that no illegal mining should take place”. He said six excavators were seized by his Department during raid. Earlier raids were also conducted and machinery was seized to keep the mining mafia at bay but they are also looking for the chance and take advantage when there is a holiday or come to know that the officials are on leave.