Patna, March 29: The Bihar government today launched a major crackdown on the mining mafia, announcing a slew of measures to stop the illegal tapping of hills and mountains dotting the state.
The government also decided that no fresh licenses would be issued for mining and crushing.
“The hills and mountains, which are historical, cultural and environmental assets, will no longer be mined. The mining licences that were in operation will not be renewed at the end of their expiry. Mining henceforth is an illegal business in the state,” chief minister Nitish Kumar said while replying to a special debate on the issue in the Assembly.
Nitish said various mining laws constituted in 1957, 1967, 1972, 1988 and 2003 would be amended to plug the “loopholes” that allowed the mafia to procure licences for mining and crushing. The mafia, the chief minister pointed out, had even cracked the historical Rajgir and Rohtas hills. “The offenders will be dealt with under the economic offences laws,” he said. “My government will take measures to end the illegal mining industry the way it ended the kidnapping industry,” he added.
As recently as in February, Rohtas superintendent of police Manu Maharaj had a providential escape when killers, allegedly sponsored by the mining mafia, had opened fire on him.
Nitish’s aggressive stance could have a political fallout with several BJP leaders, particularly those belonging to the Rohtas region that is dotted with hills and forests, said to have links with the mining industry. Leader of Opposition Abdul Bari Siddiqui took a jab at the BJP, recalling how its leaders had defended mining on the plea that it was “necessary for industrial development” when the then Rabri Devi government had adopted tough measures against the mafia in the wake of the killing of a divisional forest officer in 2002, allegedly at the behest of the mining lobby.
Deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi of the BJP was not present in the House when Nitish announced the measures against the mafia.
“Forests and mountains are scare commodities in the state, particularly after carving out the forest and mineral rich-Jharkhand and as such they will be protected at all costs,” Nitish said.
Nitish also announced the constitution of a committee comprising the forest, water resources, road construction, law and other related departments and headed by the development commissioner to examine the existing Acts. The panel will suggest measures to bring in relevant amendments to the laws to put a “permanent cap” on the mining trade. “We will conserve our forests, hills and overall environment. We will do nothing at the cost of our eco-system and environment,” Nitish said.