SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) President Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari on Wednesday expressed deep concern over the lackadaisical attitude of the government that has led to a grinding halt in developmental activities, black-marketing and an unprecedented escalation in prices of construction material across Jammu and Kashmir.
Addressing a press conference here at Party office in Lal Chowk, Bukhari regretted the acute shortage of construction material that has led to illegal extraction and hoarding of construction material like sand, aggregate, gravel and stones causing immense sufferings to the general public.
The press conference was attended by Party’s senior vice president Ghulam Hassan Mir, Party’s general secretary Rafi Ahmad Mir and Party’s provincial president Kashmir province Mohammad Ashraf Mir.
“It is highly unfortunate that the natives of J&K who have been associated with minor mineralogy business since decades have been sidelined and the contractors from outside J&K who are yet to produce environmental clearances have been given a free hand to control the market,” Bukhari observed while appealing for the personal intervention of the Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha into the matter.
Apni party president said that the e-auction for extraction of raw material was held clandestinely without giving any wide publicity to the tendering process which has drastically resulted in the exclusion of the local contractors.
“Now what has added to this fishy allotment process is that the successful non-resident J&K contractors are yet to fulfill the requisite terms and conditions especially getting environmental clearances. Despite these noticeable shortcomings, these contractors are indulging in illegal extraction of raw material through their subcontractors in connivance with the concerned departments,” he added.
Bukhari said the common people are suffering because of this mafia that is taking advantage of the government’s sheer silence and apathetic attitude. “It is highly unfortunate that the J & K government seems to be a mute spectator to this whole situation and on different pretexts the locals associated with this business since decades are being deprived of their inherent rights on J&K’s natural resources,” he added.
He said that the government must frame a comprehensive policy taking in view the Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand models wherein the rights of the locals on their natural resources have been safeguarded and insulated against the impact of the e-auctioning process. He demanded that the government must regulate the prices of the raw material needed for construction purposes and ensure its hassle-free availability in the markets.
“The shortage of raw materials like sand, bricks, stones, aggregate and gravel have not only caused immense sufferings to the general public but have stalled work on many prestigious developmental projects worth thousands of crores across Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.
Bukhari said the government must go for fresh auction of minor-mineral blocks and sand sections/patches while ensuring adequate participation of local contractors if at all it is serious in the protection of the rights of natives on the natural resources in J&K.
He said that till a concrete policy is chalked out, the government must allow extraction and lifting of raw material including stones, sand and aggregate by local contractors who are already associated with this business. Bukhari said the government needs to enforce easementary rights thereby safeguarding the residents of J&K from being deprived of their inherent rights on their natural resources.
“Since there is a ban on stone quarrying and sand digging activities in both divisions of J&K, the government must address the demands of the stakeholders so that the closed crusher units are made functional. This way the livelihood of lakhs of people including transporters, labourers, construction workers who solely depend on this business can be safeguarded,” he remarked.
“The local quarry owners at Athwajan, Panthachowk, Zewan, Khanmouh, in Srinagar and Kathua, Samba and Akhnoor in Jammu should be allowed to go for extraction and lifting of raw material. Similarly in rural areas, the government must implement its orders by virtue of which Panchayats were formally authorized to permit lifting and extraction of raw material in their respective areas,” Bukhari demanded.
Apni Party President demanded that all the left out mineral blocks in J&K should be immediately demarcated and notified within the radius of around eight kilometers for stone crusher units and at least 50 per cent of these demarcated blocks should be reserved for the local stakeholders.