“Have people become ‘Hanuman’ that they are running away with hills?”
Yes, you heard it right the aforementioned question was asked by Justice Lokur to the counsel appearing for Rajasthan. You must be wondering that is this some sort of a joke cracked in the court. No jokes were being cracked; this statement came after hearing that 31 hills in the Aravalli area of Rajasthan have vanished.
Last year it was reported that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) found that India was facing an environmental crisis with illegal sand mining fetching $ 250 million (Rs 1,611 crores) in profits every year.
Let’s just learn how the issue has evolved:
WORSENING CONDITION AWAKES PEOPLE
In a starting disclosure, on 23rd October, 2018 apex court of India appointed central empowered committee (CEC) who revealed to the court that in the last 50 years 31 out of 128 hills in Aravali region in Rajasthan have vanished due to massive illegal mining, forcing the court to direct the state to stop illegal mining within 48 hours in a 115.34 hectare area in Aravali hills.
A perturbed filled bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta expressed shock, while absorbing the harsh truth of how hills got vanished which was also admitted by the state government and ordered the chief secretary to take immediate required steps to shut illegal mining in the state and directed him to file affidavit by October 26 on compliance of its order.
SHOWING CONCERN IS ALL WE ARE LEFT WITH
While showing concern the court has also said that the states have failed miserably while protecting the hills and further allowed the mining companies to carry out their operation for receiving royalty by keeping the destruction of nature at worth.
The court also mentioned that growing pollution level and dust storm in Delhi might be related to the disappearance of hills in bordering area of Delhi as the hills, which earlier blocked the flow of pollution to Delhi, have disappeared.
“31 hills have disappeared. If hills get disappeared in the country, what will happen? Have people become ‘Hanuman’ and are running away with hills? More than 20 per cent hills have vanished in the state.” –The bench
The state government without having a single drop of modesty admitted that illegal mining was still going on in the state despite of the order by the apex court. SS Shamshery, Additional Advocate General of the state, however, claimed that actions were being taken against the mining companies and even FIR was being lodged against them. However, the assurance didn’t satisfy the court and passed the order for closing on mining operation within two days.
“Hills were created by God for some reason. If you start removing hills then pollution from other area will be coming to Delhi and that may be one of the reason for increasing pollution level in Delhi. For the sake of few mining companies, you are putting life of lakhs of people in danger. Damage has already been done. The devastation caused is apparent and you can seen it while travelling from Delhi to Jaipur.” –The bench
On quizzing from the court about how much royalty it is getting from mining companies, advocate A D N Rao, appearing for CEC, stated that the state is getting Rs 5000 cr from companies. It was also told to the bench by Rao that apex court’s order was not being followed by state and adjured the court to pass rigorous direction for the closing of illegal mining in the state.
“You give this Rs 5,000 crore for the health of people of Delhi. Hospitals in Delhi are overcrowded; people are dying here due to pollution.” –The bench
It was also stated in the report by CEC that illegal mining was going on in 15 districts in Rajasthan and Districts of Alwar, Dungarpur , Sikar were worst affected. It also included that illegal mining was going on 115.34 hectares. It further stated that the majority of the mining leases in the state are granted in “clusters”.
6. SUPREME COURT HAVE WARNED ALREADY
This is not the first time that the country’s apex court has shown concern. Supreme Court have already earlier this year warned the illegal mining states stating that no illegal mining project will receive new environmental clearance from the federal government until violators deposited the financial penalties levied by the Supreme Court.
The story doesn’t end here further it added that in cases of repetition of illegal mining and in cases of second violations of mining laws, all clearances issued to regularize the illegal projects will automatically be null and void.
In August 2017, the Supreme Court declared in a verdict that mining projects in the eastern Indian province of Odisha operating without mandatory environment clearances and/or which had violated other mining laws, liable to pay the equivalent of 100% of the value of minerals extracted from such illegal mining projects.
While there is no official figure available neither on the aggregate penalties that miners operating illegal projects are liable to pay nor figures on the amount already collected by the Odisha government, it is being indicated by the source in government that the total penalties payable were estimated at about $8.8-billion, of which the local government has been able to recover only around $1.17-billion.
5. LET’S GLANCE AT NUMBERS
The official government data reveals that during 2016/17, a total of 42, 334 cases of illegal mining were registered in mineral-bearing provinces with the western province of Maharashtra leading the list with 10797 cases.
During 2016/17, a total of 96,233 cases of illegal mining were registered against the high of total 1.10-million cases registered in 2015/16.
Well if you think that Rajasthan and Odisha are only the culprits then you are completely mistaken. Data revealed by the Union environment ministry before the Rajya Sabha on January 3, 2018, states that Maharashtra recorded 1, 39,706 illegal mining cases between 2013 and 2017, that is the highest number in the country. However, the state had one of the lowest numbers of prosecutions in such cases.
Maharashtra filed 712 first information reports (FIR) and one court case while seizing approximately 1,39,000 vehicles used in illegal mining operations and collecting fines of Rs 267 crores from an offender.
During the same time, Nation recorded total 4,16,410 cases that clearly states that Maharashtra accounts for 33.5% of all cases in India.
- Uttar Pradesh recorded 36,054 illegal mining cases
- Madhya Pradesh recorded 46,193 illegal mining cases
- Karnataka recorded 33,390 illegal mining cases
- Goa recorded 3 illegal mining cases
This information was revealed in response to a query on the environmental impact of illegal mining.
“The high number of cases in Maharashtra can be clearly attributed to better detection, documentation and reporting related to illegal mining as the district administration in the state is more vigilant. The revenue administration and police are hand-in-glove with these illegal mining activities with areas distributed for mining purposes. Fortunately, this is not the case in Maharashtra, and the reason lesser cases are reported from other states.” –Satish Gavai, additional chief secretary, state environment department
4. ILLEGAL MINING WITNESSED SHOOT UP
It is not all of a sudden this issue of illegal mining came in front of us. This issue has grown age-old and now it has rooted in the depth of the country. Maharashtra and Rajasthan were just a few of them; there is a long list of states that have witnessed the rise in the number of illegal mining on a yearly basis.
According to the data released by the Ministry of Mines, the number of illegal mining cases increased in these three states
- Rajasthan – 33.6 percent,
- Gujarat – 52.8 percent
- Madhya Pradesh – 106.4 percent
According to Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, the classifications of ‘minor minerals’ and ‘major minerals’ have been done in India. Minerals such as coal, lignite and iron ore are considered as ‘major minerals’.
3. LONG LASTING IMPACT
Each and every action comes along with equal and opposite reaction. Clearly, the vanishing of the hills is a direct consequence or reaction of illegal mining around that area, but this is not only what illegal mining costs.
The environmental impact as stated by geologists includes
- loss of forest cover
- habitat and biodiversity of an area
- soil erosion
- groundwater contamination
- permanent destruction of hilly areas
“Excessive mining close to infrastructure projects loosens the foundation. The long-term effects of such activities may lead to disasters such as bridge collapses or even inundation. Excessive sand mining is responsible for affecting the natural flow of rivers by creating pits along the river bed that can be disastrous in the long term for any ecosystem.” –V Subrahmanyan, geologist and former head of a department, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-B) Bombay, Geology department
2. FEW WITNESSED IMPROVEMENT
Well when few were on the mission to destruct the mother earth there were a little who took oath to bring in the change. Jharkhand’s illegal mining cases in between 2013-14 and 2016-17 decreased by 23 per cent.
In case of Tamil Nadu, in 2013-14 numbers decreased from 1,078 to just 56 in 2016-17.
The other seven mineral-rich states that were included in the Mines Ministry analysis were
- Andhra Pradesh
As per the data between April 2013 and September 2017 Tamil Nadu lodged total 10,734 FIRs against alleged illegal miners which is the most among the 12 mineral-rich states
The state also in between April 2013 and September 2017 obtained illegal mining fine of Rs 122.85 crore. During the same time period, Madhya Pradesh obtained fine of Rs 1,132.06 crore, making itself the topmost state in terms of fine collection.
In between April 2013 and September 2017, other states obtained fines of
- Andhra Pradesh – Rs 143.23 crore
- Chhattisgarh – Rs 33.38 crore
- Gujarat – Rs 156.67 crore
- Karnataka – Rs 111.63 crore
- Maharashtra – Rs 281.78 crore
Earlier this year the Ministry of Mines said that it has formed a three-pronged strategy for prevention of illegal mining.
- First is the constitution of a task force by state governments at the state or district level, which also includes a representative of the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM).
- The second step is about requesting states to frame rules under Section 23C of the MMDRA Act, 1957.
- The third is about asking states to furnish quarterly returns on illegal mining for review by the Central government.
According to Section 23C of the MMDRA Act, 1957, matters relating to regulation and control of illegal mining, etc, comes under the sphere of state governments. And as per the Mines Ministry, till March this year, 20 states have formed the rules. The Ministry further advocated the states to set up State Coordination-cum-Empowered Committee (SCEC) to coordinate efforts to control illegal mining by including representatives of Railways, Customs, and Port authorities. And as per the ministry’s annual report, 13 state governments have set up the committees.
“3,555 mining leases excluding 31 minor minerals have been registered online with IBM as on September 2017. The IBM has suspended 145 mines for non-compliance and recommended 251 cases to state governments for termination. Similarly, as regards to the status of registration of end users, traders, stockiest and exporters, a total of 3,345 units of end-users, 5,162 number of traders, 1,683 number of stockiest and 898 number of exporters have been registered as on September 2017. The IBM has also requested the state governments not to issue transit passes for movement of minerals to unregistered operators.” –Ministry’s Report
1. ACTIONS CAN’T BE ALTERED
It is so ironic, that selfishness and greed make humans lose their own consciousness that they don’t even realize that what harm their actions will bring. Other creatures must be wondering that Homo sapiens have become so self-centered and inconsiderate that just for some money and benefit the destructed something as strong as hills, and not just one, the negativity of human beings became so powerful that 31 hills kneeled in front of the enemy of Mother Nature. It is so sad to absorb the fact that a fourth of Aravalli Hills that added on to the beauty of Rajasthan has gone forever.
Not just once the thought in the mind of miners came that it is a non-renewable resource and can’t be renewed or evolve again. Our coming generations are now deprived of having its look.
The funny parable of ‘rules are meant to be broken’ have been taken so seriously by the government that they took very lightly or just say completely ignored the orders of decision maker of this country.
The current government stressed immensely on India’s image internationally, throughout their tenure. Were they were unaware of the fact that if something like this would happen then definitely the international media would cover it. Or were they not satisfied when earlier this year the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) found that India was facing an environmental crisis with illegal sand mining fetching $ 250 million (Rs 1,611 crores) in profits every year, that they wanted more, because of which they continued allowing illegal mining in spite of the warnings. We all should be ashamed of the deeds.
Miners were not the kids or the government isn’t a toddler that needs to be told about the consequences such dangerous activity would bring. Humans have to live with the harsh fact that actions cannot be altered.