Shopian: As the night falls over Rambiara rivulet in south Kashmir, nocturnal activity of men and machinery begins on its banks. The cover of darkness is opportunity for illegal extraction of sand, gravel and boulders, which are carted away in dozens of tractors without giving a fig for the nation-wide lockdown.
Locals living near the rivulet told Kashmir Reader that the excavation of minerals is an organised activity in which a large number of people are involved. They said that the excavation is going on in areas of Batpora and Losedenow, where the noise of tractors can be heard all night and even early in the morning.
Similarly, locals from villages like Nazneepora, Heff and Lasipora complained of the same activity. “Even when all construction work is at a standstill, these tractors are plying their illegal trade,” said Showkat Ahmad, a local.
While tenders for excavation of minerals have been given for certain areas, minerals are being extracted illegally even from restricted areas. “Before the lockdown the rate of a tractor of gravel was Rs 900. It has reached Rs 1500 now. Same is the case with boulders and sand,” another local said.
Suhail Ahmad, district geology and mining officer, admitted that the lockdown is being violated and at many places illegal excavation takes place during night. “How can we watch the rivulet during night without help of police?” he asked, and added that the department staff was even attacked at Batpora a few days ago.
Ahmad said that a meeting in this regard was called by the Shopian deputy commissioner in which police were directed to ensure a lockdown and to keep vigil on illegal activities. “We hope people will understand the importance of lockdown,” Ahmad said.