HC asks govt to reveal rehab policy for people affected by stone quarry ban

SRINAGAR: The J&K High Court has granted the state government two weeks time for disclosing policy for rehabilitation of those persons affected by ban on stone quarrying in the state.
A division bench of Justices Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and B S Walia granted the time as sought for by the counsel representing the government.
The high court has repeatedly granted time to the government for disclosing the policy. The direction was first issued in 2013 after senior advocate Z A Shah, representing affected persons, pointed out that government has not come up with any policy as to whether the stone quarrying in forest areas and Kahcharai (farm) land has to be stopped in perpetuity.
“If so, what is the policy of the Government for rehabilitation of persons who got adversely affected?” Shah had asked.
At that time, then Advocate General had highlighted that the quarrying was imperative not only in the interest of persons who are operating them but also for the state because the government also requires utilization of the natural resources for development.
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by Sofi Arif Maqbool, a resident of Wahipora, Handwara in Kupwara. Among other directions, he seeks an end to stone quarrying within forest demarcated areas in the state.
Maqbool had claimed that there has been unabated stone quarrying within forest areas for a long period and that ban on the quarrying “appears to be only on the papers.”
He had also accused state authorities of lacking will to implement the orders of the court regarding the quarrying.
The court has already stayed the operation of illegal quarrying in forests including Kupwara and Baramulla districts.
During the previous hearing, financial commissioner, department of industries and commerce, had informed the court that the government has formed districts level committees for Anantnag, Baramulla, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kupwara and Pulwama headed by respective deputy commissioners to identify alternative sites for stone quarrying in these districts.  However, the Commissioner Secretary said that due to the floods and elections in 2014, the matter could not be pursued by the committees. The present status of the committee is also expected to be revealed by the government when it files the status report.