Srinagar: Revised rules regarding stone quarrying and minor mineral activities in Jammu and Kashmir are in the final stage but may take some time, government has informed the J&K High Court.
“The process has been set in motion, approval of the Chief Minister in coordination is awaiting. It may take some time,” Financial Commissioner Industries and Commerce Department has stated in the status report filed in compliance to the directions by the High Court in a Public Interest Litigation—Sofi Arif Maqbool Vs State & others.
He said that a meeting under the Chairmanship of Chief Secretary, and attended by various officers, was held wherein certain decisions have been taken.
“A committee of the officers headed Financial Commissioner (I&C) and comprising Commissioner Secretary Revenue and Secretary Forest Department as members has been constituted to study the issue regarding the rehabilitation of the affected persons, if any, on the basis of inputs to be furnished by Geology and Mining Department,” reads the status report.
In another decision, Geology and Mining Department has been asked to identify in a time bound manner the person, if any, who got adversely affected due to stoppage of the stone queries in Forests and Kahcharai areas.
Lastly, Revenue Department has been asked to identify alternate sites for stone querying, preferably within the vicinity of the existing stone quarries, which stand closed within the Demarcated Forests as well as Kacharai land within a period of three months.
After perusal of the report, a division bench of Justices Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Hasnain Massodi directed the Commissioner to file fresh status report, indicating further progress about the decisions on next date of hearing in PIL on May 12.
The PIL has been filed by Sofi Arif Maqbool, a resident of Wahipora, Handwara in Kupwara. Among other directions, he mainly seeks an end to stone quarrying within forest demarcated areas in the state.
Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal has filed an affidavit in compliance to the court directions, stating that District Geology Officer has reported through a communication on December 24 last that 69 persons have been stopped from operating quarries in the state land.
The deputy Commissioner said that concerned Supervisor has been directed to keep constant vigil and not to violate anyone orders of the Supreme Court.
Furthermore, the Deputy Commissioner said that special checking squad has been constituted for monitoring the quarry activities closely so that no one is allowed to operate in violation of the directions of the Apex Court.
Similarly, Deputy Commissioners of Kulgam, Bandipora, Kargil, Kishtwar, Reasi, Udhampur also filed affidavits, stating that are no operating quarries exist in demarcated forests, kahcharti, Shamilat land in their respective districts.
The DC Udhampur also informed that a stone quarry was in operation, however it has been stopped and a fine of Rs 28, 800 was imposed on the violator by Geology and Mining Department.
Meanwhile Deputy Commissioner, Kuthua also filed compliance report by the court found that it was not in conformity with its directions and directed him to file a fresh affidavit.
The bench also granted four weeks time to Deputy Commissioners of Poonch, Ramban, Doda and Jammu districts to file the requisite status reports.
The court also granted time to an Advocate N. A Tabasum to file response in respect of stone quarries situated at Gogloosa Payeen and Khazan Mitti in frontier Kupwara district.
The court also asked counsel for the petitioner, advocate G Murtaza to file response, if any, to the various compliance reports. Advocate General M I Qadri represented state before the court.