Jharkhand: CM Soren digs in, plans CCTVs, special drives to check illegal mining

With the state’s mining secretary arrested in a decade-old corruption case, and Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren himself under the scanner in an alleged mining scam, the Chief Minister has called for express steps to tackle the menace of illegal mining and the ‘bad image’ created by the mining mafia in the state.

In a virtual conference with Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police of all 24 districts of the state on Saturday, Soren sent out the message that illegal mining will not be tolerated “at any cost”.

As part of this, Jharkhand plans to put up checkposts and install CCTV cameras in all mining areas, start a toll-free number to receive complaints, undertake a targeted approach to tackle those involved in illegal mining, and hold a special drive, with press conferences organised each week in each district highlighting the action taken.

The Soren government is under fire from Opposition BJP on illegalities in mining, among other issues.

In the meeting, Soren is learnt to have said, “Illegal mining has to be stopped at all cost, especially in Dhanbad and Hazaribagh, where coal mining takes place, and Pakur, Chaibasa, Letehar and Ranchi, where stone-mining is done…. Awaidh khanan hua to afsaron ki ab khair nahi (officers will not be spared if illegal mining takes place).”

In 2019-20, Rs 5,165.82 crore was collected in revenue from major and minor mineral mining in Jharkhand — while the share of coal was Rs 3,278.33 crore, revenue collected from minor minerals was Rs 282.55 crore, according to state government data.

According to data available with The Indian Express, the state-level task force, constituted to look into issues of mining, particularly illegal mining, has seized more than 2,000 vehicles and imposed fines amounting to Rs 5 crore for illegal mining in 2020. The task force conducted more than 2,300 inspections and close to a thousand FIRs were lodged in 2020.

Data is not available for 2021.

With Opposition BJP raising the issue of illegal mining in the state to embarrass the government, Soren, in Saturday’s meeting, said that some “mining mafia” are involved in “illegal mining” to tarnish the government’s image.

At the meeting, the Chief Minister also raised the issue of deaths due to illegal mining, especially those in areas deemed risky.

The Indian Express has earlier reported on deaths of many local residents who enter mines without permission and have died as parts caved in.

Arup Chatterjee, a former two-term MLA from Nirsa constituency of Dhanbad district, called the meetings and statements a “farce”. Chatterjee, who works with local people affected by mining, said: “Many people who enter the mines illegally end up dead; their families cannot even claim the bodies because on paper these (mines) do not exist. Recently three bodies were brought out and we asked the contractor to pay Rs 4 lakh to family members of each deceased, but much more needs to be done at the ground level. The CM needs to walk the talk if he means business. Otherwise this is all optics.”

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