Kaliapani: Illegal mining and smuggling of bluestones apart from chromite and iron ore from Kaliapani mining region has increased manifold in recent years due to the lackadaisical attitude of the police and Forest department officials, sources said Sunday.
This mining region under Sukinda block of Jajpur district and the areas in adjoining Keonjhar district are blessed with huge natural resources like chromite and iron ore. Also there is an abundant availability of bluestone which is used in astrology-related works. Among the minerals, the region has 95 per cent of chromite ore while the rest are iron ore and bluestone.
However, with the district administration failing to safeguard these minerals, the region has turned into a safe haven for smugglers. Smuggling of bluestones was first noticed in 2014 and later the then Kaliapani IIC conducted a raid and seized large quantity of the material from Rajasthan and also arrested some persons involved in its smuggling.
The raid unnerved the smugglers for some time and they went into hiding. However, after a brief lull the smugglers have surfaced again and started mining the stones and transporting them to other states at premium rates.
With demand for bluestones on the rise, most of the stuff is smuggled to other states. Hundreds of quarries operate in this area resulting in huge loss of revenues for the Odisha government.
The border area of Keonjhar and Jajpur districts ie Tikarpada village is infamous for the presence of Maoists. As a result the district administration has poor control over the area. There is a good deposit of bluestones on the hill top of Tikerpada locality.
The stone mafias quarry bluestones from the hilly area without much opposition from the administration or the police. Tikarpada village comes under Kaliapani police station while officials of Tomka forest range patrol the area on a regular basis. However, they seem to be oblivious to the activities despite the mafia carrying out the quarrying and transportation of stones by using rock breakers, excavators and dumpers.
The mafia also deploys local tribal people in quarrying work and pays them Rs 50 for a basket of bluestones. The villagers are aware that the stones fetch good prices. So they also break the bigger pieces and sell them at a higher price to those interested in acquiring bluestone.
As per the law, mining of minor minerals is regulated under the Odisha Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 2016. Tehsildars are the competent authority to grant lease through the auction process.
The lessees are required to submit mining plan for approval from the Directorate of Mines. They also need clearance from the Forest and Environment department.
Most of the stone quarries and crushers in the area however, operate without permission. They neither have official permission nor follow basic mining, safety and environmental norms, sources said.
“Almost all the quarries operating in the area use explosives for blasting as these rocks are very hard. It is not clear from where they get such huge quantities of explosives without license,” they added.
The rampant quarrying and crushing of rocks cause serious pollution in the locality due to emission of smoke and dust. The Odisha State Pollution Board is not taking action against these polluters, locals alleged.
Efforts to contact, Kaliapani IIC Susant Kumar Das failed as he did not respond to calls. When contacted, Forester Ganeswar Das raids are being conducted periodically to thwart the efforts of the mining mafia.