Planning Commission

Saurabh Sharma, TNN | Jul 1, 2014, 12.25AM IST

JAIPUR: Endorsing reports that illegal mining is rampant in Rajasthan, the Planning Commission in a recent study has indicted the state for flouting norms in this regard. It accused the state for giving arbitrary forest clearances and unauthorized renewal of leases. The report, published on May 29, comes at a time when governments both at the Centre and in state are in an agreement to push growth keeping environmental issues on backburner.

Commissioned by the Planning Commission, The Energy & Resource Institute (TERI), has submitted its six-month study on ‘equitable sharing of benefits arising from coal mining and power generation among resource-rich states.’

The study specifically mentions that “there has been unauthorized renewal of mining leases in Rajasthan without approval from Central government.” The study further added, “there has been arbitrariness in forestry clearances, unauthorized renewal of leases, cases of illegal mining, projects operating without environmental clearances and an unauthorized change in the status of forest lands.”

The report censured state for not taking proper steps to curb illegal mining. “In terms of action, only 3 instances have been noted, that too to the extent of issuing show cause notice,” it said.

The study, however, was targeted on coal-rich states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh and equitable sharing of revenues between them and Centre. But in a chapter, ‘measures to compensate for forest land diverted’, it noted that illegal practices are happening in Rajasthan. The report cited Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) as its source of information.

The mines department, meanwhile, refuted the claims of the study and asserted that mining in Rajasthan is going as per rule book. “There are several minerals where state need not take Centre’s permission. I haven’t seen the report so I cannot comment more specific about it. But wherever needed, the government of India’s approval has been sought,” said Arjun Ram Chaudhary, joint secretary, mines.

“The department has been taking stringent action against those who are flouting norms. So there is no question of being apathetic over illegal mining,” he added.

Illegal mining has been carried on unabatedly despite the change of government over the years. The Ashok Gehlot government was criticized for sitting over complaints and ignoring such activities. The present government led by chief minister Vasundhara Raje has already faced flake from National Green Tribunal for failing to curb illegal mining in Aravalli ranges.

The successive decisions by the Raje government, soon after taking over office in December 2013, too raised suspicion. In February, the government put on hold the plan to set up a mineral protection force. The government has also reduced the penalties to Rs 500 from Rs 25,000 under Rajasthan Forest (amendment) Act, 2012, alleged by the environmentalists as a backdoor entry for mining mafias to grab depleting forest land.