The mining controversy in Kataldi, Tehri Garhwal, has taken a new turn now. Even as the villagers continue their stir against the 30-year lease that they say would endanger the ecology of the region and affect their livelihood, owners of Parvitiya Mineral Industries, the lessee company, have filed a case in the local courts against three prominent agitating leaders of the region. The charge levelled against Vijay Jardhari, Kunwar Prasun and Kamal Khemka is that they tried to obstruct the firm's legitimate right to mine in the area.
Acting on the lessee's petition, the court has restricted the three accused and any "agents" from entering the leased land till the scheduled date of hearing in March 2002. The local people condemned the order as a section of the leased land is part of the village's van panchayat and the only source of fodder and fuelwood for them.
Earlier, the district magistrate (DM) of the region, Radha Raturi, had said in an interview, "The people should move the courts to pre-empt the lessee company filing a case in the local courts by taking recourse to public interest litigation themselves (see Down To Earth , Vol 10, No 19, February 28, 2002)." The people of Kataldi resented this stand of the DM. They said that had she cancelled the mining lease and imposed total suspension on the mining activity, the dispute would never have reached a flashpoint. "While the DM did well to intervene in our favour, an executive order from her would have solved our problems," said Vijay Jardhari.
With the DM passing the buck to the state government in Dehra Dun and the government refusing to review the lease, the villagers seem destined to spend their time running to courts instead of tilling land.
Kataldi has a history of protests against mining. In the 1970s, a similar agitation was launched when a lease was granted in the region.