Residents of Harla ki Dhani in Rajasthan discuss effects of illegal mining in the Aravallis
Shyam Singh, the main petitioner: Things have really become worse now. There was a meeting about this illegal mining issue on February 2010. All the higher ups came for this meeting. The Personal Assistant (Moin Khan) of the health minister (Durru Miyan) said that there are poor people who depend on this trade. They will become theives if you do not let them mine here.
Before the Supreme Court ban came, the illegal mining issue was discussed in the meetings here. They kept insisting that if we do not let them mine here, they will become theives. Now the environment (referring to the razed hills) here has completely dissappeared. This started from 2009 till very recently, the end of 2011. These pits are filled up by the water during the monsoons. Earlier, in Kahrani, shepherds from the pastoral community (neeche jaat) used to depend on this hills. Now they sit at home, with nothing else to do. If they bring their animals here, stones would hit them.
Mange Ram, from the local shepherd community: I am from the Valmiki faith. This is our vocation. Now there is no fodder from our animals, or a place to stay. When the roof (referring to the hills) fell, all of the animals die.
How many of your animals died? A lot of them. Because of the stones? Yes. They died while they were grazing in these hills? Yes, in these hills.
Singh (interrupts): Didn’t I say these hills were good?
Ram (resuming the conversation): Some of my animals died when they fell inside the deep pits dug by the miners, themselves. Some of them buried by when stones would rain next to my house from the mines. How many animals did you have?
About 30-35 animals. Did anybody come to ask when these animals died? No one.
Singh (interrupts): I did go to the forest department in Alwar. What happened then? So many times I went to the office. The forest official said that whatever you have to say, speak to higher-ups. ‘If we go to these (illegal mines), we do not get any police protection. We do not get any help when we go there. How will we stop’, the forest officials.
A villager in the background: Officials have been beaten up here.
Singh: A district forest officer from Alwar was beaten up here. He came once.
A villager in the background: A district level villager was beaten up.
Ram (interrupting): The incident that happened a few days back.
Singh: These were policemen who got beaten up recently. DFO was bashed up before this. Have you got into any kind of trouble with this illegal mining mafia?
Ram: We are poor. Why will a poor person pick up fights with others? But say when the stones caused damage to your livestock? Did you ever ask them to stop it yourself when losses were caused?
Ram: They say that it will stop in the next few days. But it never stopped. And we do not have that kind of power or courage to fight as equals. We are poor. They have the money, so they have all the power here.
Singh: Once upon a time, these people, who mine here were also poor. This is the new money. The hills have brought this prosperity to them. See what the illegal mining did to the mafia – even if they did not attend school, all of them own vehicles. Scorpio, Bolero, you name it. They have also built mansions. With all kinds of intoxication, they seem to be leading a life in heaven. Once a local cop (Chunilal) told me that hey Patel (referring to Singh’s caste identity as a Gujjar, mostly land owning in these parts of Rajasthan), referring to a proverb, when your axe is not sharp enough, how do you expect break the log? He went on saying we do not have anyone to speak for us. While, these mafia people have good connections. So what can cops do? Then I showed him the damaged drip irrigation pipes of our fields due to the stones coming from the mines when blastings happen. He asked me what he can do? Then he said that his hands are tied and that he has to do his job.
I asked him again why can’t he do something again but it is now clear. First, the money was coming in from these illegal mines. Then, there is no fear in taking bribes, as all the illegal activity has the blessing of the minister. Not one but four or five police stations pay money to the higher ups. This is how money was made from these hills. What can a cop do? The cops posted here are smart who join the local officials and make a lot of money. We praise the good cops also. When the present Station Head Officer, Karan Singh joined, he said he was a Hindu. If I have taken money from these people, I would have eaten a cow. But then lower ranking policemen have links with the miners, who call them.
The lower ranking police officials have all the miners’ numbers saved on their phones, saying that don’t mine now, the police officials are on a round. The phone calls come from the police station itself. What can a cop or station head do or what will he see when he’s on a round? Mehmood Khan (a former cop) used to take bribes openly from the illegal mining people. He was the one who got the District Forest Official bashed up. Is the DFO called Mr Murthy? Yes, his wife is an IPS officer. The person who got bashed him was formerly the station head officer here (of Bhiwadi Phase 3 police station). Now when the police officials come they raise an alarm. They also have weapons. Nobody checks for weapons here now.
Everyone’s got a weapon here. They bought weapons and vehicles by razing these hills. Did you seize any explosives here? Yes, but it was never registered. 10-15 kilogrammes of illegal explosives. How was it kept? Inside a plastic box. There were wires as well. Karan Singh (the SHO) took it from us, but never registered a police complaint. He did not register a case because there is pressure from the top administration. He saids don’t file any complaints, I also have to do my job.
Salluddin, resident of Kahrani village: I don’t understand how does anyone live or eat, when there are dumpers passing my house, allthrough out the day and the blasting of the stones. There are cracks all round my house. If you want to see, I can show them to you.
Singh (interrupts): His house is full of dust and stones. Dumpers and blasting have terrified this people. Did they cause any blasting last night? It has lessened but late blasts keep happening late at night. Around 5-6 people died also when they fell inside the pits few years back.
Singh (interrupts): it has thrice now. The Collector of Alwar district and Superintendent of Police were here.
Salluddin: This keeps happening at night.
Dinu Khan, Councillor of Harla ki Dhani, Bhiwadi municipality: Illegal mining happens a lot here. It is not just here in this village but the whole of Tijara tehsil. Trucks and dumpers would choke up the roads, in which it becomes impossible for the vehicle as well as the driver to come out.
A villager interrupts: How people died in these mines!
Dinu: Since the SC judgement, this mining is now under control. But only to a certain extant, 10 to 20 percent illegal mining is still going on ... late at night. It was like this, the local administration proved to be really weak, whenever this issues were raised in the meeting (referring Feb, 2010 meeting). There is no resolution for this issue. From bottom to top, everyone is involved in this mining business. What was the response from the officials when you complained them about the issue? If there is no response from the minister’s side, who is the representative here, what response will be there for the common people. What can a local ward councillor do? Did you give any application to the minister in writing? No I havent given anything in writing. Does he know about this?
All of them know about this. It is not hidden from any of them. When the money comes, evil follows. If these mines are illegal, they used in illegal construction.
Singh (interrupting): A bunch of youths will form a gang and ask the dumpers, mostly from Haryana, taking the stones from here, for hundred rupees each.
Dinu: There is illegal revenue here. Most of the mine owners have a lease from Bharatpur, but with the help of the local administration, they are mining in these hills illegally. The local officials do not put a stamp on any of the produce from the hills which is shipped in these dumpers. People whose leases have expired in Bharatpur are still operating in this region. For that local administration charges a goonda tax.
There was a team of 35 such lease holders, who were given lease on a sharing basis. They are paying the revenue here, where as they have lease in some other place. They were caught but with money they managed to supress everything. When a government team from Gurgaon belonging to Haryana department was here, there were several raids, but paying bribes everything was settled.
Villagers: Yes they were caught.
Dinu: If the cream of the Tijara tehsil collect money to give bribes, why will the common people speak up?
Singh: Crores are made here. Tijara police station, Tapohera Police Station, Bhiwadi Police Station – all of them collect this money.
Dinu (interupts): When 7-8 lakhs are collected everyday, there are about 20 odd posts collecting the money from the vehicles that carry the stones. Laws are not applicable here anymore. What do you make from these stones?
Singh: Crusher (stone) dust and grit. Grit and dust are used for building road. Grit is used for building RCC homes and the roofs. These stones go Nauranpura, Haryana, Pali Zone, Faridabad and Mahale Crushers (which is about a kilometre away from here). They will mostly go to Delhi and Noida.
JCB Depot in-charge: Do the rates of these machines vary? These are priced according to sizes and load capacity. Who buys them from you? Do companies buy it or do people buy it for personal use? They buy it according to the usage. How is the demand here?
It is good.
Read DTE Special Report: Aravallis razed