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Govt to reserve mining leases for Himachalis

To put an end to the monopoly of outsiders in the river-bed mining in borders areas and to provide employment to local youth, the state government is all set to reserve the mining leases only for Himachalis.

With the crackdown on the illegal river-bed mining in the state following the directives of the court, the government is formulating a policy, which will be placed before the Cabinet for reserving the leases for Himachalis only. Majority of the river-bed mining leases in the border areas are of people from Punjab, Haryana and other states.

“In order to curb illegal mining and provide more employment avenues to our own people, we are in the process of preparing a policy where river-bed mining leases will be reserved for Himachalis,” confirmed Industries Minister Mukesh Agnihotri. He admitted that majority of the leases in the border areas were being run by people from outside the state and since the lease money for sand and gravel mining was not very high, Himachali youth could take the lease.

At present, there are 282 stone crushers in the state and 143 mining leases have been issued by the mining wing of the Industries Department.

The blanket ban on the river-bed mining has led to an acute shortage of sand and gravel in the state, which has started affecting the developmental work being undertaken under the MNREGS and the state government projects of the Public Works department.

The slow process of clearance of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the various mining leases had aggravated the problem even more and led to illegal mining.

A sum of Rs 2.38 crore has been collected as penalty for illegal mining activity in September only, which indicates the scale to which the illegal activity is being undertaken.

“During the last three months, only one clearance has been granted by the state EIA clearance agency and six by the Centre since January,” revealed an official. The clearance of the EIA report of 110 mining leases is pending before the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment.

He added that empowering the state to clear the EIA for leases below five hectares could simplify matters and help tide over the shortage of sand and gravel. To check illegal mining, the Industries Department has imposed a ban on sending sand and gravel outside the state, there is a ban on mining between 8 pm to 6 am and dumping is not allowed by tractors.

Following the complete ban on river-bed mining, the tractor owners have approached the government to find a way out as there were about 25,000 tractors.

They pointed out that many unemployed youth have taken loan and with there being a complete ban, they have lost their only source of livelihood.

Keeping a check

  • Govt framing a policy for reserving the river-bed mining leases in border areas for Himachalis only
  • Govt to encourage local youth to take leases as lease money for sand and gravel mining not very high
  • Majority of river-bed mining leases in border areas are of people from Punjab, Haryana and other states

The Tribune (17-09-2013)