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Altaf Bukhari accuses J&K govt of stealthily granting mining leases to outsiders

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Says besides depriving locals of livelihoods, process has halted construction activities

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) president, Mohammad Altaf Bukhari on Wednesday accused the J&K administration of stealthily conducting the e-auctions of minor mining contracts of construction materials, which he said has choked supplies and brought the construction activities to a “grinding halt”.

The J&K government had last month ordered constitution of district-level Single Window Committees for facilitating the execution of mining leases of e-auctions for project proponents where clearance for the applications have not been received or are under process.

The respective committees were tasked to issue necessary clearance on behalf of all concerned agencies within 30 days extendable to 45 days in exceptional circumstances for reasons to be recorded in writing.

During a press conference at the party office here this afternoon, Bukhari alleged the said e-auctions for extraction of the construction materials including sand and gravel were held clandestinely without giving any wide publicity to the tendering process as a result of which the local contractors have been excluded.

“Now what has added to this fishy allotment process is that the successful non-resident J&K contractors are yet to fulfill the requisite terms and conditions, especially getting environmental clearances. Despite these noticeable shortcomings, these contractors are indulging in illegal extraction of raw material through their sub-contractors in connivance with the concerned departments,” he alleged.

The Apni Party president expressed concern over what he termed a “lackadaisical attitude” of the J&K government that has brought the developmental activities to a “grinding halt” and led to “black-marketing and an unprecedented escalation in prices of construction material across the union territory”.

He said the “acute shortage” of construction materials has led to illegal extraction and hoarding of construction material like sand, aggregate, gravel and stones causing immense sufferings to the general public.

Flanked by other party leaders including Ghulam Hassan Mir, Rafi Ahmad Mir and Mohammad Ashraf Mir, at the presser, Bukhari termed it “highly unfortunate that the natives of J&K who have been associated with minor mineralogy business since decades have been sidelined and the contractors from outside J&K who are yet to produce environmental clearances, have been given a free hand to control the market”.

While common people were suffering because of the shortage of the construction materials, the J&K government “seems to be a mute spectator to this whole situation and on different pretexts the locals associated with this business since decades are being deprived of their inherent rights on J&K’s natural resources,” he alleged.

He urged the government to frame a comprehensive policy taking in view the Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand models wherein the rights of the locals on their natural resources have been safeguarded and insulated against the impact of e-auctioning process.

He further demanded that the government should regulate the prices of the raw material needed for construction purposes and ensure its hassle-free availability in the markets.

“The shortage of raw materials like sand, bricks, stones aggregate and gravel have not only caused immense sufferings to the general public but have stalled work on many prestigious developmental projects worth thousands of crores across Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.

Bukhari called for fresh auction of minor-mineral blocks and sand sections/patches while ensuring adequate participation of local contractors, if at all it is serious in protection of the rights of natives on the natural resources in J&K.

He said that till a concrete policy is chalked out, the government must allow extraction and lifting of raw material including stones, sand and aggregate by local contractors who are already associated with this business.

Bukhari said the government needs to enforce elementary rights thereby safeguarding the residents of J&K from being deprived of their inherent rights on their natural resources.

Amid ban on stone quarrying and sand digging activities in both divisions of J&K, Bukhari urged the government to address the demands of the stakeholders so that the closed crusher units are made functional.

“This way the livelihood of lakhs of people including transporters, labourers, construction workers, who solely depend on this business, can be safeguarded,” he remarked.

He said the local quarry owners at Athwajan, Pantha Chowk, Zewan, Khanmoh in Srinagar and Kathua, Samba and Akhnoor in Jammu should be allowed to go for extraction and lifting of raw material.

Similarly in rural areas, the government must implement its orders by virtue of which Panchayats were formally authorized to permit lifting and extraction of raw material in their respective areas, Bukhari demanded.

The Apni Party president demanded that all the left-out mineral blocks in J&K should be immediately demarcated and notified within the radius of around eight kilometers for stone crusher units and at least 50 percent of these demarcated blocks should be reserved for the local stakeholders.

He called for the personal intervention of the Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha into the matter.

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