Upbraided by the Gujarat High Court for its inaction in curbing illegal mining, the state government Friday told the court of the series of measures it has initiated to curb the malaise.
Mines and Minerals Secretary M. Sahu appeared in person before the bench of Chief Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya and Justice Akil Kureshi as per the court’s earlier directive to announce the measures.
The government has amended provisions of Gujarat Mineral (Prevention of Illegal Mining, Transportation and Storage) Rules, 2005 and provision of suspension of royalty pass/ delivery challans was introduced in cases of violation or breach of any lease deed conditions of dues pending, the bench was told.
It was further submitted that the state government will hold police officers, revenue officers and geology and mining officers of the area concerned accountable and liable for negligence towards their official duty so far as detection of illegal mining activities in the state is concerned.
The government has recently passed a resolution and a state/district level task force has been constituted to check illegal mining.
‘All the pending lease applications will be disposed off and new leases will be granted with all transparency,’ the bench was told.
The affidavit further stated that the new market mineral value rates has also been fixed for illegal excavation/storage of various minerals and for the first time, a 24×7 control room has been set up to receive complaints about illegal mining. An incentive scheme for informers has also come up in which a cash award up to Rs.1 lakh will be given.
The government has planned to co-ordinate with railways, ports, and customs departments for tracking mineral movements.
The analysis of statistics submitted by the state government in the affidavit seems to indicate that the government swung into action only after 2009 with little or no action before it.
As compared to 64 FIRs filed during 2005-09, the state registered 290 FIRs in last two years. Likewise, from 2005-March 2009, no leases were cancelled or suspended for breach of conditions. But in 2009-December 2010, 23 leases were cancelled and 50 leases were suspended for the same reason.
After taking the submissions on record, the court adjourned the matter on February 11.
Right to Information (RTI) activist Amit Jethwa had initially filed the public interest litigation against illegal mining in Gir forest region in Junagadh, which is considered to be last abode of Asiatic lions in the world. Jethwa was shot dead last year near the high court.