The first morning of New Year proved to be the last morning for five mining workers in Haryana. On the very first day of 2022, five persons were buried alive in a landslide triggered by illegal mining in the Dadam hills of Bhiwani district.
A special investigating team (SIT) subsequently constituted to probe the reasons behind the mishap had not moved beyond the files when, on July 19, another SIT was formed to probe the killing of DSP Surendra Singh Bishnoi by the mining mafia at Mewat.
In the past two years, more than a dozen SITs have been formed in connection with illegal mining across the state but their reports remain in cold storage. Former Chief Minister and leader of Opposition in Haryana Assembly, Bhupendra Singh Hooda tells Outlook that the Haryana government has constituted dozens of SITs in the name of investigating illegal mining, job recruitment exam paper leaks, liquor and registry scams, but not a single report has come yet. “Under the present regime, SIT does not mean ‘Special Investigation Team’; it means 'Sitting Investigation on Table',” he says.
Even as the reports of the SIT on illegal mining are awaited, the situation is getting worse. According to reports, illegal mining has been going on in full swing in Yamunanagar, Karnal and Panchkula districts from the Aravalli hills of Mewat to the borders of Uttar Pradesh. Also, Hathni Kund barrage on the Yamuna river at Khizrabad in Yamunanagar and Kaushalya Dam in Panchkula are facing threats due to rampant mining. The Tajewala Dam of Yamunanagar is already on the verge of overflowing due to mining.
According to official data, 1,835 cases of illegal mining were registered in Haryana between January 1, 2020 and July 31, 2022. During this period, 1,977 people were arrested and 4,065 vehicles were seized. Altogether 194 accused were arrested under 69 FIRs registered against those who attacked the police force deployed for the prevention of illegal mining and also employees of the mining department.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, however, says that illegal mining has been banned during the tenure of his government, which is evident from the revenues generated from mining. “Our government has earned Rs 4,660 crore by way of mining in seven years from 2015-16 to 2021-22, whereas only Rs 1,268 crore was received between 2005 and 2014 during the tenure of the previous government.”
According to the Chief minister, the revenue figures prove that illegal mining was much more prevalent during the tenure of the previous government as compared to the present regime. During the monsoon session of the Assembly, the suggestions of many MLAs to crack down on the mining mafia were considered. In connection with the killing of DSP Surendra Singh, the SIT has already registered 10 FIRs and arrested 11 people so far. Home minister Anil Vij says, “A judicial inquiry will be conducted to get to the bottom of the DSP murder case. It has been constituted under the leadership of Justice LN Mittal, retired judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court.”
The Khattar government, which has been busy showing a reduction in illegal mining cases by juggling revenue figures and also by setting up one SIT after another, does not apparently realise that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has banned mining in the 2.1 km area around the Hathni Kund barrage since February 2016. Still, reports about the activities of the mining mafia keep coming from there every now and then.
The latest CAG report has also mentioned that the Khattar government could not recover Rs 1,476.21 crore from the mining contractors. In its latest report, the CAG says that there is no record of inspection and inspection of 95 mineral mines. According to the report, the government forgot to take the principal and interest amount worth Rs 66.74 crore from the mining contractors under the Mines and Mineral Rehabilitation Fund. Mining contractors have been found mining in double the area allotted to them. Due to illegal mining, the river flow was diverted, the boundary of the embankment was completely changed and bridges were built illegally. The CAG conducted a 'geo-spatial survey' of three mining areas out of 95 mining areas.
It was also pointed out in the survey of Gumthala North mining block that the mining contractor was mining twice the area (204 per cent) than the allotted area. The amount of naturally mined reserves also increased from 20.34 lakh tonnes to 44.72 lakh tonnes. The government thus incurred a loss of 100 percent in revenue. The sand mafia has also stopped the natural flow of the river by making a 'dam' in the middle of the river.
The CAG has also found out that illegal mining is being done without inviting tenders. It says that the Haryana government did not take any action by putting satellite images of the Nagli block of Yamunanagar. The government should have an annual income of Rs 2,133 crore from the 95 mineral mines. If it is implemented in all the 95 mining areas and it is assumed that three-fourths of the mining areas are being mined in double or more areas, then more than Rs 5,000 crore is being lost annually to the state exchequer, the report says.
Home Minister Anil Vij, however, rejects the CAG report on the revenue loss estimated to be in crores of rupees due to illegal mining. It states that Rs 1155.84 crore has not been recovered from 69 mining contractors.
He tells Outlook that the CAG report has no meaning. “The CAG report will be sent to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Assembly for examination. Something can be said about illegal mining only after the PAC report,” he adds.
BJP MP from Ambala and Union Minister Ratnlal Kataria says that the overloaded trolleys running till late at night on the Karnal-Yamunanagar road have ruined the roads. Kataria says. Residents of Sandhala, Sandhali, Lal Chhapad, Hansu Majra, Kandroli and Khukhani villages say that their villages are in the grip of floods because of illegal mining. According to Varyam Singh of Sandhala village, hundreds of acres of paddy crops have been destroyed due to the floods. Shiv Kumar Sharma of Rao village says that the local people have to bear the brunt of mining not only by losing their crops but also by losing their lives.
There are allegations that some ruling BJP MLAs, MPs and ministers are giving patronage to the mining mafia. During the monsoon session of the Legislative Assembly on August 8-10, Congress demanded a CBI inquiry into the rise in illegal mining during the tenure of the incumbent government. Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee President Uday Bhan says, “Investigation of illegal mining scam should be done by a sitting judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court and its report should be submitted within three months so that the nexus of political, administrative, mining mafia and mining contractors is exposed.”