Violating Govt order, HC directive; G&M conducts open auction of river blocks

DC alleges huge revenue pilferage

Gopal Sharma
JAMMU, Nov 16: In sheer violation of standing Government orders of conducting e-tenders and e-auction for every contract in all the Government departments and the court directives, the Geology and Mining Department has gone for open auction of blocks in rivers, streams, nallahs etc in the entire region while it has miserably failed to conduct auction in district Kathua for the last more than one year.
Official sources told the Excelsior that the Government has lost huge revenue in terms of royalty from the rivers and nallahs as open auction discouraged many participants and in almost in the entire region and districts including Reasi, Rajouri, Poonch, Udhampur, Ramban, Doda, Jammu and Samba etc one group in connivance of some insiders in the department managed to take control of ‘grey gold’. It revealed that ‘grey gold mafia’ has again managed to take control of extraction of ‘minor mineral’ like sand, stones, gravel etc in the rivers and streams of the region with the top political-bureaucratic nexus.
The sources further revealed that out of total blocks, hardly 40 % have been auctioned in many districts and one particular group is unofficially operating in other areas as well while department claimed that the remaining areas/ blocks will be put for auction shortly.
In many blocks of Akhnoor-Jourian, Khour and Nagrota in Jammu and even in Billawar, Hiranagar and Ramkote in Kathua, mafia is operating illegally. Not only this, the rates of royalty have been increased exorbitantly more than double just within 7-8 months. There is no proper criteria devised to fix the rate of royalty per vehicle (Tipper/ tractor -trolley) for sand, gravel, stones etc. After auction in Jammu the rates have reached almost double the previous ones.
For finished goods (crushers’ gravel) double royalty is being charged from the vehicle operators which is ultimately theft on the pocket of the general public. While the fact remained that stone crusher operators are already made to pay the royalty of the minor mineral picked up from the rivers.
In Kathua, worst is the condition in river Ravi and other riverines as Punjab mafia is operating with the active connivance of the insiders. Though Punjab Govt has banned the extraction of minor mineral in river Ravi which falls under the control of Punjab state, yet they are operating calendestinely, mostly during night hours. The delay in e-auction is ultimately helping the ‘mafia men’ and pilferage of Government revenue has gone higher with this. About a dozen stone crushers being run by some politicians in Kathua and in parts of Jammu are not paying revenue to the G&M department and to the PDD for the last several years, thus causing huge revenue loss to the State, sources added.
Deputy Commissioner, Kathua, Raohit Khajuria when contacted said that some people went to the court, which stayed the process of open auction being carried out in Kathua about 7-8 months back. On some earlier occasions also, the auction process could not be completed due to various reasons. He said as and when the court stay is vacated the process of e-auction would be stated. It is the duty of G&M officials to get the stay vacated by seriously pursuing the case.
The DC expressed his anguish over the functioning of the G&M Department and massive illegal mining taking place in Ravi and certain other areas, causing grave threat to the environment and depletion in water table in the area. He said many times he sealed several stone crushers and even suspended G&M officials but this influential mafia manages ways to operate.
There is no system to set up stone crushers. Many of them are running without NOC from the competent authorities. They are creating massive pollution. He said that Government needs to devise a proper policy to issue License for stone crushers. There is massive Revenue loss to the G&M department in Kathua and there is need to plug the leakage. He said infact, e-auction should have conducted in the entire State and it would have generated huge revenue for the Government.
District Mineral Officer Kathua, Bodh Raj when contacted said that due to stay by the High Court auction could not be conducted in district Kathua. He said the Department is following the case in the court and when the stay is vacated the e-auction process for 22 blocks would be initiated here. When asked whether e-auction was conducted in other districts, he said for this training is being given to the officials to understand the new process. Till now, open auction was done by the department in Jammu, Samba etc, he added.
When asked about the sharp revenue fall in the district from Rs 20.39 crore to just Rs 7 crore in last four years in district Kathua, he said the efforts are afoot to increase the same. He claimed that there was shortage of staff in the district as well for collection.
DMO, Jammu, Rajinder Singh Rana said that out of the total 65 blocks in the district, 41 have been auctioned. The process of auction of the remaining blocks is being initiated. He said four blocks of the Tawi river have been banned by the High Court. More than 14 stone crushers have been sealed by him for violation during last seven months. Besides this, over 100 vehicles were seized for lifting minor mineral in the banned blocks in Akhnoor and Tawi areas during last six months. He said for the remaining blocks the G&M authorities would go for e-auction as per directives from the higher authorities.
However, Director Geology and Mining Department, J&K, Farooq Ahmed Khan could not be contacted despite several calls on his cell phone and office number.