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Himachal

Posted at: Sep 15, 2018, 1:14 AM; last updated: Sep 15, 2018, 1:14 AM (IST)

Lax laws hamper drive against illegal mining in Kangra district

Lax laws hamper drive against illegal mining in Kangra district
Despite a number of drives, the illegal practice is rampant in many parts of Kangra district. File photo

Lalit Mohan

Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, September 14

Lax mining laws are hampering police efforts to check illegal mining in Kangra district. The Kangra police had launched a drive against illegal mining in the district last year. The district police challaned and impounded 25 JCB machines, 391 tippers, 1273 tractor trolleys and 57 other kinds of vehicles under the Mining Act.

However, all these vehicles were released after imposition of meagre fines ranging from Rs 1,000 toRs 25,000 within a day or two. After release, the vehicles, especially the JCB machines, were again put to use for illegal mining.

Last year the police challaned 1,800 vehicles and imposed a fine of about Rs 84 lakh on charges of being involved in illegal mining.

The present BJP government after coming to power amended the Mining Act. The police or the mining authorities can now impose a maximum fine of Rs 5 lakh on the impounded vehicle. However, no one has been made liable to pay a fine of Rs 5 lakh to date. In Nurpur area of Kangra district, highly prone to illegal mining, fines up to Rs 50,000 have been imposed on impounded vehicles.

A big problem in checking the menace is that illegal mining still remain a compoundable offence. The police at the most can impose a fine and has to release the vehicle impounded on charges of illegal mining.

A senior police official while taking to The Tribune on the condition of anonymity said that they tried to check illegal mining with the meagre resources available with them. In Himachal, there was just one official vehicle available at each police station. Even those vehicles are not fit to trek the riverbeds where the illegal mining operations take place. Still police carried out raids in riverbeds and impounded JCB machines and tippers engaged in illegal mining. Many raids were carried out in the early morning hours as illegal mining operations go on at time. The police vehicles got struck in marshy river beds and had to be taken out using the confiscated JCBs.

Despite all these efforts the police was forced to release the vehicles with a maximum fine ranging from of Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 as per the provisions under the Mining Act.

The officials involved in campaign against illegal mining say that if the government is serious in checking the illegal mining the vehicles impounded, especially heavy vehicles such as JCBs and tippers, should not be released after paying minor fine of Rs 25,000. The law should be made as stringent as the Forest Act under which vehicles involved in the offence are released onlyby the courts. Generally, the JCB that earns about Rs 2,000 per hour in illegal mining operations recovers the fine imposed within one day. So the owners of JCB don’t take the offence under illegal mining seriously and repeat it, the police officials said.

Most of the JCBs in Kangra district are owned by the people involved in illegal mining due to heavy profits generated by them.

Undemarcated Punjab-Himachal border especially in Nurpur and Indora sub divisions of Kangra district is another bottleneck in controlling the illegal mining.

Amended Act

The present BJP government after coming to power amended the Mining Act. The police or the mining authorities can now impose a maximum fine of Rs 5 lakh on the impounded vehicle. However, no one has been made liable to pay a fine of Rs 5 lakh to date.

Call for stringent law

  • Officials who are part of the campaign say if the government is serious about checking the illegal mining, the vehicles impounded should not be released after paying a minor fine of Rs 25,000
  • Generally, a JCB machine earns about Rs 2,000 per hour in illegal mining operations. As the fine is less, owners don’t take the offence seriously
  • A law as stringent as the Forest Act should be made so that impounded vehicles are released only by the courts

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