The death of a beat watcher run over by a tractor trolley employed in illegal quarrying at Jwalavan area of the Kosi river belt has elicited strong condemnation from political and other some other circles. The authorities have taken action, transferring the officials concerned of the forest department and police following the incident in the Ramnagar area on Friday after which the accused were also apprehended and the vehicle impounded by the police. However, observers point out that though the forest department, police and other departments concerned are taking action against illegal quarrying in recent days, there is need for sustained action to end operation of illegal quarrying and related businesses in both the plains and the mountainous regions of the state where it has been continuing at varied magnitude for years now reportedly with the involvement or knowledge of many including politicians and public representatives.
Quarrying is legally carried out on slots leased out and monitored by the Uttarakhand Forest Development Corporation with the coordinated work of district administration, transport, revenue and police departments also being considered vital for preventing illegal mining activities. The riverbeds of majority of rivers in the mountains and plains are quarried legally and illegally of boulders, stones, pebbles, sand and other construction material. The authorities state that monitored quarrying on the riverbeds is needed to mitigate the threat of flooding in the monsoon season. However, observers opine that legal quarrying activities are dwarfed by the illegal and unregulated quarrying activities which can be witnessed at different times and in varying proportions on the beds of the Rispana, Bindal, Suswa and Tons rivers in Dehradun region. In the Nainital district, where the beat watcher was killed by those involved in illegal quarrying, the district magistrate Deepak Rawat conducted a surprise inspection of regulated quarrying areas on Saturday and on Sunday. He told officials concerned and those involved in quarrying to ensure that everything is done by the book as illegal quarrying causes revenue loss besides creating other problems. He said that surprise inspections of other sites in the district will also be conducted. Following complaints of illegal quarrying at the Gaula riverbed, Rawat on Sunday raided the quarried riverbed material exit point with the administrative machinery also not being aware of this planned action. Officials of the forest corporation and transport department were called to the site where some panic was created at Motahaldu and Beripadav quarrying gates where a total of about 15 vehicles loaded with quarried RBM, abandoned by the drivers were impounded. Further, three vehicles were also impounded for being plied sans valid documents and driving license. An Enfield Bullet motorcycle rider Sunil and Bijendra were suspected of acting as informers from the site. Rawat took their mobile phones and confirmed through call details that they had been informing on the official actions, following which their motorcycle was also impounded. The DM clarified that only those vehicles with high security number plates will be allowed to pass through the Sheeshmahal, Rajpura, Indranagar and Anwal Chowki quarrying gates. He gave a fortnight for the vehicles to get high security number plates failing which all vehicles were be barred from entry from April 10. At the forest corporation gates, Rawat found that the closed circuit television cameras were not linked to the software which was affecting recording. He said that 7513 vehicles are registered for quarrying in the Gaula riverbed of which only 6568 have installed a required chip. Warning owners of the 945 vehicles operating sans the chip, Rawat said that quarrying was illegal using vehicles not fixed with the said chip.
It is pertinent to mention here that recently, apart from chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat directing stern action against illegal mining, a cabinet minister had also recently stated that such illegal quarrying activities cause of period revenue loss of about Rs 350 crore to the state.