Shimla: In a rare admission the Himachal government on the floor of the Vidhan Sabha admitted that the mining mafia operating were defiant of the law and were recklessly plundering the natural resources of the state.
“They are so powerful that a stricter law is needed to contain the menace,” said Mukhesh Agnihotri, the industry and mining minister to lawmakers in the house.
He informed the house that in the 100 days that the congress government has been in power in the term, enforcing agencies had collected Rs 1 crore fine from illegal mining activities, which only reflected the volume of illegal trade that was being carried out.
River and stream beds and banks are illegally being stripped of boulders and sand at such an alarming pace that foundations of an railway bridge on the Pathankot – Jogindernagar rail track, some years ago, was exposed which caused a collapse of the structure that was built by British engineers in pre-independence India.
Congressman Kuldeep Kumar and BJP legislator Ravinder Singh Ravi had sought to know the extent of illegal mining operating in Himachal by questioning the government’s actions to enforce law when the minister bared the department’s helplessness during question hour today.
Mining mafia is so powerful in the hill state that it overshadows other mafias operating here and despite a 24 vigil being maintained at many places, the state government was unable to complete contain the illegal activity, said Agnihotri.
He even confessed the government officials were colluding with the mafia at some palces.
A ban imposed on mining and quarrying in the neighbouring states has many trucks, tractors, JCB excavators and other vehicles were crossing state borders and resorting to illegal mining in Himachal. As many as 50 vehicles are being impounded on a daily basis for being involved in the illegal trade, he added. Penalty for impounding a JCB excavator was Rs 25,000.
In three years as many as 11,647 cases of illegal mining had been registered, a total of 7738 vehicles had been compounded by the enforcing agencies and a fine of Rs 3,67,25,518 had been collected. As many as 3038 cases of illegal mining cases were filed before the courts, the minister stated.
However he refused to impose a ban as legal permits for mining had also been issued and the material was needed for construction works as well as public works being carried out by the government.
The minister informed the house that influx of illegal mining was largely confined to Una, Hamirpur and Kangra districts.