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99 Yatra
Illegal mining: theft worth Rs 54 cr detected
14 October 2006

 The Porbandar police investigating into illegal mining have detected theft of limestones worth Rs 54 crore. But the police say it is just the tip of an iceberg of huge racket, which the police are trying to unearth for the first time. ‘‘This is a record theft. There is still possibility that investigations will lead to more theft cases,’’ said Porbandar Superintendent of Police I M Desai. 
Till now, illegal mining remained unreported for two reasons: (1) most of the miners have mafia links; (2) the Mines and Mineral Department is not able to act because of staff shortage. Desai said the police had carried out the investigation in a fair manner. ‘‘It will take another 10 to 15 days before we can say anything about the total theft amount,’’ he said,’’ adding that ‘‘none found guilty in the illegal activity will be spared.’’

The flying squad of the Mines and Mineral Department from Gandhinagar had arrived at Porbandar on October 6, three days after the district administration had initiated the drive. But the squad for Saurashtra-Kutch, headquartered at Rajkot, couldn’t make it to the ground on Tuesday because of staff crisis. There are around 1,700 mines in Saurashtra-Kutch region. They include limestone mines in Porbandar, bauxite mines in Jamnagar, coal mines in Surendranagar and lignite mines in Kutch.

And there are only three employees with Saurashtra-Kutch flying squad to look after mining activities across all these areas. At present, the post of assistant director (Saurashtra-Kutch) flying squad is vacant. The job is done by the Rajkot district geologist P V Joda. To conduct raids, the squad has one mine inspector. The third staff member available in the department is a clerk, who looks after paper work.

About royalty, the miners are supposed to pay it to the Mines and Mineral Department one month in advance. And the company that takes the supply from the miners is also supposed to take a note that the mineral supplied to it is legally mined. But the rules are violated everywhere. ‘‘Besides royalty theft, the illegal mining and encroachment for mining is a major concern. Raids and surprise checks at regular interval are necessary,’’ said Joda. But that is not possible in view of staff crisis and also with the miners having mafia links.

In January, the then Porbandar District Collector Sheela Benjomin had said in a letter that staff shortage coupled with mafia involvement was a big problem. ‘‘With mafia involved in illegal mining, it often becomes life threatening for the department, which is facing staff shortage, to take action,’’ said the letter dated January 23. The current drive to detect illegal mining is being carried out with the help of officials from Gandhinagar. ‘‘The police department is not familiar with lease and royalty papers, which are also not available with us. But now we are able to conduct raids with the help of officials from the Mines and Mineral Department,’’ said Desai

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