Brazen Illegality

Brazen Illegality

The one major feature of Brick manufacturing in Budgam district is that of blatant flouting of statutory requirements. Almost ally all brick kilns operating in the district are illegal-each one having failed to renew their licences from the district authorities. It may be noted that Budgam has the highest concentration of brick kilns in the Valley, accounting for 230 such units. All are brazenly violating the Jammu and Kashmir Brick Kilns (Regulation) Act, 2010. This is a moral and ethical, legal , sociological and an economic issue. Perhaps the only “industry” in Kashmir that is viable is the construction industry. The reasons accrue from Kashmiris’ sense of space and the “need” to own their homes/houses. Building and owning a house is almost a social and psychological imperative for Kashmiris. There then is a vociferous demand for construction material in Kashmir. Given bricks form an important component in terms of constructing and building houses, there is exponential demand for these and this very fact makes the brick kiln sector profitable. Hence, the manic urge to enter into this sector and build more kilns. But there is, as the condition of the residents of Budgam demonstrates, a price to pay- in terms of pollution , public health and other allied issues. The harm caused by the proliferation and spread of brick kilns is on as varied domains as respiratory issues, noise pollution , barrenness of agricultural land among other things. These are the obvious and manifest issues; in all likelihood, other problems would accrue as well. What then is the solution to this problem? Since demand is a variable over which nothing much can be done, measures can be taken on the supply side. Salient amongst these measures would be to check the illegal proliferation of brick kilns. This can be done by stringent and strict disbursal of licenses granted to present and potential kiln owners. There is an apprehension and suspicion that kiln owners and operators operate under the patronage of officials. If this is indeed the case, accountability measures need to be instituted that both pre-empts and prevents this form of patronage. Accountability should be tied to strict, judicious and regular oversight mechanisms oriented towards monitoring and instituting safeguards into the operations of brick kilns. In the final analysis, public health and allied issues that ignoring this vital public interest issue causes is an important issue that brooks no compromise. It is about time that we get serious about it.

 

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