Of the 38,100 odd cases of illegal mining registered in Gujarat during the last five years, First Information Reports (FIRs) were filed against suspects in only 2.16 percent of the cases.
Compared to 5,463 cases of illegal mining registered in the state between July 2014 and June 2015, the number of cases rose to 7,340 by the end of June 2019. This is an increase of 34.4 percent, states the data shared by the state government as a written reply to an unstarred question asked by Congress MLA from Siddhpur, Chandanji Thakor in the recently concluded fifth session of the state Assembly.
During this five year period, a total of 38,117 cases of illegal mining were registered across different districts of Gujarat. The maximum cases have been registered in Chhota Udepur (3,101), followed by Surat (2,794) and Rajkot (2,014). Districts like Surendranagar (1,775), Ahmedabad (1,719) and Sabarkantha (1,626) also had a high number of such cases. Even Kutch, which is considered an important centre for mining activities, saw 1,084 cases of illegal mining being recorded.
However, despite the high number of cases being registered in the state, FIRs were filed in only 825 cases which makes for just 2.16 percent of the total illegal mining cases registered during the five year period. The highest number of FIRs have been filed in Gir Somnath district of Saurashtra, where 981 cases of illegal mining were reported. The second highest number of FIRs were lodged in Kutch (106). In the three districts of Chhota Udepur, Surat and Rajkot that clocked the highest number of illegal mining cases, the number of FIRs lodged were 52, 56 and 20 respectively.
When asked about the low percentage of FIRs lodged in illegal mining cases, DM Shukla, Additional Director, Commissioner of Geology and Mining (CGM), said in a statement mailed to The Indian Express, “When cases of illegal mining is found, government issues a notice for penalty. If the accused is ready to pay penalty, the government recovers the compounding fee from the accused person… If the accused is not ready to pay the penalty, then the government lodges an FIR.” The official also said that in the last five years, a total of Rs 280.46 crore was recovered as penalty in connection with illegal mining in Gujarat.
Shukla contended that there were only 3,433 cases of illegal mining registered in Gujarat during the period and the rest were cases related to illegal transportation and storage of stolen or unaccounted mineral stocks.
In response to a question on the high number of illegal mining cases in Chotta Udepur, Surat and Rajkot, the CGM official said that most of the cases were related to illegal mining of sand from the rivers and the suspects were usually locals.
“The main reason for illegal mining in Chhota Udepur and Surat is the proximity to interstate borders with Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The quality of sand from these two districts are comparatively better and the demand for the same is high,” Shukla said.
Talking about illegal mining in Rajkot, he added, “The only major source of ordinary sand is Bhadar river, which passes through Rajkot district. The other source of ordinary sand is Shetrunji river, but mining activity in ordinary sand leases located on Shetrunji river were restricted by a Gujarat High Court order and so, Bhadar remains the lone source for sand.”
The state government in its written reply also stated that it has formed “flying squads” and has set up surveillance by drones (for keeping a tab on illegal mining of river beds) to reduce the number of illegal mining cases in the state.
The CGM in Gujarat has also set up a round-the-clock control room at Gandhinagar to keep a check on illegal mining.