According to data revealed by Rajasthan’s mining department in a response to a question in the state assembly, the mines department has reported 38,335 cases and collected Rs 252.85 crore as fines in the last three financial years. While between January 1, 2020, and January 31, 2021, 86 cases were reported from Bhilwara district followed by Jodhpur and Nagaur with 58 and 49 cases respectively. RHEA BINOY reports.
ACCORDING to data from the state’s mining department, 639 cases of illegal mining of various minerals have been registered in various districts of Rajasthan last year.
According to data given by the mining department in response to a query in the Assembly, the highest number of cases— 86— is registered from Bhilwara district, followed by Jodhpur and Nagaur with 58 and 49 cases, respectively.
According to a report by The Indian Express, Rajasthan’s M-sand policy, which controls the manufacture of sand from mining waste, was implemented in January this year. The programme, to increase the availability of legal sand was dubbed a “game-changer” by the government.
However, illegal sand mining has recently emerged as one of the most pressing issues facing the Rajasthan administration, with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot himself admitting the issue on many occasions. According to data, the mines department reported 38,335 cases and collected Rs 252.85 crore as fines in the last three financial years(2018-19,2019-20, and up to January 31, this year).
The police have filed FIRs in 3,375 of these incidents, according to the report. On November 16, 2017, the Supreme Court barred all 82 sand mining leases in Rajasthan from working due to a lack of environmental clearance and scientific replenishment studies.
Illegal sand mining has resulted in fatalities, law and order incidents, and growing allegations of complicity between government authorities and illegal miners since that ban.
A central empowered committee of the Supreme Court recently had said in its report that the state tacitly participated in ‘the free-for-all loot of this valuable natural resource’.
According to a Centre for Science and Environment report, Rajasthan has the highest number of mine leases in the country – 1,324 leases for major minerals, 10,851 for minor minerals and 19,251 quarry licenses for mining stones. The state earned about Rs 590 crore in royalty from major minerals like lead, zinc and limestone in 2004-2005. But the sector contributes only three percent of the state’s revenue.
Rajasthan holds reserves for 44 major and 22 minor minerals and is the only producer of garnet, jasper, selenite, wollastonite and zinc concentrates. It is also the leading producer of calcite, lead concentrate, ball clay, fireclay, ochre, phosphorite, silver and steatite. But it is best known for its production of marble, sandstone, marble and other stones. It produces 10 percent of the world’s and 70 percent of India’s output of sandstone. Ajmer, Bhilwara, Bikaner, Dungarpur, Jaipur, Pali, Rajsamand, and Udaipur are its main mining districts.
The report also states that the state government has failed to regulate illegal mining in forest areas. Udaipur, the most forested district of Rajasthan is the most mined.
The government has issued leases for hundreds of mines in Sariska National Park. Despite repeated Supreme Court orders to close them down, mining continues unabated in Sariska and Jamwa Ramgarh sanctuary. This has had a devastating impact on the forest cover of the state.
In the Bijola area, there were 23,800 hectares of dense forests in 1971; by 1991, only 12,800 hectares remained, and only 2,700 hectares were dense. The National Centre for Advocacy Studies reports that about 4,996 hectares of this forest land have been converted for mining since 1980.
Further, Rajasthan continues to dabble with asbestos despite a worldwide ban on the mineral. Rajasthan, which has 54 percent of India’s asbestos resources, still has five to six operational mines. According to the World Health Organisation, all forms of asbestos causes cancer, with chrysotile asbestos increasing the risk of cancer. This is a major health risk for workers, especially since these illegal mines do not provide safety equipment or compensation in case of accidents or deaths.
(Rhea Binoy is a journalism student at the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune, and is an intern with The Leaflet.)