Raids carried out, excavating machines seized after KR report
Budgam: A day after a Kashmir Reader report on the hollowing out of karewas land in Budgam district (‘Fertile karewas of Budgam hollowed out by soil mafia’, Kashmir Reader, Oct 30), the Mines and Minerals Department raided several illegal excavating sites on Wednesday and seized some soil excavating machines.
According to sources, a Mines and Minerals Department team along with Tehsildar Budgam Rayees Ahmad Bhat and Police Sub-Inspector Budgam Sajad Ahmad carried out a surprise raid on the sites in several areas of the district to keep a check on illegal mining.
The department team seemed to wake up early Wednesday following the publication of the Kashmir Reader report on the “soil mafia”, an official said.
“After reaching there, we found three excavating machines standing at the site, which according to reports were involved in illegal mining at Patwaw excavating site,” an official source told Kashmir Reader, requesting anonymity.
Seeing the department officials, the machine operators fled. The machines used to vandalise the natural karewas were seized, and two of the three employed were taken to the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Budgam, where a complaint was made out against them, sources said.
The remaining machine was made non-functional during the raid, and its main parts were also taken away.
Similarly, an L&T machine was also seized and moved to custody in Razwan village in Beerwah sub-division, just at the time when it was engaged in extracting soil from karewas land. One machine that was comparatively large in size could not be taken away, however; its parts were partially damaged and made unserviceable, official sources said.
Meanwhile, local people expressed exuberance over the Kashmir Reader coverage followed by the prompt action of the district administration.
“We are very grateful to Kashmir Reader and applaud them for their effort in bringing this long-pending issue into the limelight,” locals said.
They also demanded that this illegal work be brought to an end, “so that we can live a comfortable life and these karewas can be preserved for future generations”, they said.
The illegal excavation has also damaged agricultural land to a great extent and created hurdles in the revenue records as well, sources said.
Illegal mining at different sites of Budgam, including Garind, Palar, Bandgam, Razwan, Jamana, Patwaw and Kultrech, has remained constant through the decades, despite regular crackdowns by the Mines and Minerals Department.
Although Section 133-A of the Land Revenue Act bars the excavation of the karewas, whose life-nurturing terraces support even saffron and almonds, locals said soil extraction has continued on one or the other pretext nonetheless.
“First, it was going on in the name of filling the landfill site at Achan Eidgah, and now it is again going on in the name of Rakhi Arth,” locals said.
Achan Eidgah is the lone landfill site managed by the Srinagar Municipal Corporation while Rakhi Arth is a 350-hectare housing colony.
Officials believe that this is the first instance when several machines were seized in just one go and said that the process would continue in future.