M A I N   N E W S

Punjab Shivaliks take brunt of quarrying menace
Ruchika M Khanna
Tribune News Service

Nurpur Bedi (Ropar), September 5
The lower Shivaliks are all set to disappear. With the illegal mining mafia leaving no stone unturned (literally!) to raze the hillocks here for sand and gravel and the Ropar administration turning a blind eye to this plundering of nature, it may be just months before this belt loses its hillocks and the entire area is levelled!

Be it the hillocks in Plata or Kheda Kamlot, these miners appear to have complete control of this area so as to carry on their mining activity.

High-power earth mowers can be seen everywhere digging into the ecologically fragile hills. Where the lower hills have been razed to the ground, men and machines have moved up and can be seen clearing these hillocks, getting them ready for mining.

Dust envelops several kilometres of this area, thanks to the continuous cutting of hillocks by these gigantic machines and hundreds of trucks ferrying this mineral wealth daily to construction sites located in Chandigarh, Punjab and even Haryana (where mining of minerals is banned).

A visit to the area by The Tribune team revealed that big construction companies, which have landed infrastructure projects in North India, have set up a “camp office” here so as to get all the required sand and gravel for their projects.

One of these companies, which has been engaged by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for the six-laning of a highway, has deployed massive machinery and manpower to extract as much minor minerals as possible from here so that its construction work does not suffer. It has also built a makeshift residential complex for its workforce here.

Rough estimates by those in the mining trade show that minor minerals worth Rs 4.8 crore are being taken away by the miners from this area every month. Over 600 trucks ferry these minerals from here to construction sites every day and each truck is sold for Rs 2,700 per 500 cubic feet (the capacity of a truck). This is over and above the number of trucks that carry sand and gravel from the legally auctioned quarries in Ropar.

Inquiries made by The Tribune reveal that this area in Nurpur Bedi, where illegal mining is being done, has not been auctioned by the Punjab Government for mining of sand and gravel. In fact, the government has auctioned quarries at only 13 places in Ropar district for mining, which includes Aaspur, Kakrala, Nanowal, Bela Dhiani, Bhanam, Sassowal, Brahmpur, Bhangal, Mianpur, Anandpur Sahib, Burj, Chakk and Sahota.

JJ Singh, Deputy Commissioner, Ropar, said that the administration was aware of this illegal mining being done in Nurpur Bedi and had been regularly registering cases against offenders. “Last week, General Manager, District Industries Centre, and SDM, Anandpur Sahib, impounded some trucks carrying sand and gravel from here. We have also registered some cases in the past three months,” he said.

But such is the might of these illegal miners that they are not only carrying on with their clandestine mining activities in this ecologically fragile area, but are also collecting royalty for allowing this illegal mining. They have set up their “base office” just where these hillocks begin.

Each truck, filled with sand and gravel, has to pay a royalty of Rs 1,800 and get a receipt from here before it can leave the area. A team of strongmen man these illegal checkposts ensuring that no truck can go without paying this “royalty”.

Another checkpost has also been set up right along the Ropar-Anandpur Sahib highway (interestingly right next to an Excise Department checkpost) to cross-check that each truck that passes by has paid its dues.





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