Illegal mining in Aravalli: Govt machinery ‘rotten’ in Rajasthan, says Supreme Court

The entire government machinery is “rotten” in Rajasthan and the officials are “hand in glove” with those who have been indulging in illegal mining in Aravalli area of the state, the Supreme Court said on Monday.

Expressing anguish over destruction of flora and fauna in the area, the apex court came down heavily on the Rajasthan government after it cited the recent Assembly elections and the upcoming Lok Sabha polls as the reasons for not completing ground truthing exercise to ascertain the area where illegal mining had allegedly been conducted.

A bench comprising justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta directed the chief secretary of the state to appear before it for an explanation.

The bench referred to the October 29 last year order of the apex court which had noted the submissions of Rajasthan’s chief secretary that approximately 27 per cent ground truthing of the area was complete and remaining work would be done within three months.

Ground truthing is conducted to ascertain the empirical evidence at actual site.

The top court is dealing with a matter related to alleged illegal mining activities in the Aravalli range.

The bench asked the counsel appearing for Rajasthan about the status of ground truthing and he said that around 31 per cent work was over.

The counsel told the bench that due to Assembly elections in Rajasthan, the work was not complete and now Lok Sabha polls were also approaching.

“What is this? Do not come to the court with this approach. Do not say this election and that election. You are not inclined to do it (ground truthing).

“You are hand in glove and your officers are hand in glove with them (illegal miners). The entire Aravalli area is devastated and entire flora and fauna there has gone,” the bench said.

“What are you saying? As elections are there so illegal mining will go on till then? What is this? You do not want to do this because this suits you. The entire machinery is rotten,” the bench told the state counsel, adding, “Are we at your mercy?”.

Rajasthan’s counsel said the state wants to complete the exercise and so far 31 per cent work was complete.

While referring to the October 29 last year’s order, the bench said, “Three months period is over now. What have you done? You already knew that elections will be there. Why you have not completed the work? Call your chief secretary”.

When the counsel said he had taken instructions from the government authority on this issue on Monday itself, the bench said, “No instructions, we want compliance of our order. We want only compliance”.

The bench said after October 29 last year, only four per cent work was done by the state despite the fact that chief secretary had told the court that work will be completed within three months.

The state’s counsel told the court that they needed some more time to complete the work.

“How much more time you want? What have you done? What is this going on,” the bench said.

The bench observed that it was “sheer violation” of the top court’s order as the state has not completed the work in time.

“We are not happy with the way the state machinery has done this work,” the bench said, adding that ground truthing should have been completed by now.

It asked the chief secretary of Rajasthan to appear before it on February 8 to explain as to why order of the top court has not been complied with yet and why action has not been taken against erring officials.

The Rajasthan government had last year told the apex court that no illegal mining was going on in 115.34 hectares of land in Aravalli area of the state

The court had, in October, expressed shock over 31 “vanished” hills or hillocks in Aravalli area and had asked the state to stop illegal mining in 115.34-hectare area.

The court had referred to a report of central empowered committee (CEC) which had said that out of 128 samples taken by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), as many as 31 hills or hillocks have vanished.

The state had earlier told the court that all the government departments concerned in Rajasthan were “on the job” to stop illegal mining.