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"Illegal" sand mining rampant, black stone crushing proliferating on South Gujarat common village, govt land

By Our Representative
A recent reply to a Right to Information (RTI) plea suggests that the Gujarat government has refused to comply by a Supreme Court direction of 2011 which asks all state governments to “restore” common grazing and government lands -- handed over in the past for activities other than what it they are meant -- to the villages to which they actually belonged.
While  facts provided in the RTI reply relate to just three talukas of one district, Tapi, these are particularly significant, as it they part of Gujarat’s "neglected" eastern tribal belt, where river sand mining is rampant. This mining has been continuing, say local activists, without gram panchayat nod for handing over lease. According to Sutariya, RTI replies suggest, permissions are being given setting up black stone crushing units on these lands.
The RTI reply to Romel Sutariya of the upcoming tribal farmers’ organization of South Gujarat, Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Manch (AKSM), reveals that in three talukas – Valod, Vyara and Songadh – out of a total of 62  leases, in as many as 15 case, where such activities have been allowed on common grazing or government land.
In Valod taluka, all five permissions for such activities have been allocated on government land. In Vyara taluka, of the 15 such permissions, eight are on common grazing land. And in Songadh taluka, of 4the 2 permissions, two are on government land.
In their direction, Supreme Court judges Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra said on January 28, 2011, that “regularization” of lands should be permitted only “in exceptional cases… where lease has been granted under some government notification to landless labourers or members of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, or where there is already a school, dispensary or other public utility on the land.”
The Supreme Court bench said, it has noticed a wide misuse of laws to “usurp” Gram Sabha lands either in “connivance” with government officials, or by “forging orders” so that “they may not be compared with the original revenue record showing the land as Gram Sabha land.”
Seeking restoration of government and common grazing land to the villages they belonged to, the bench asked “the Chief Secretaries of all State Governments/Union Territories in India … to do the needful” by speedily evicting illegal occupants after giving them show cause notice and a brief hearing.
“Long duration of such illegal occupation or huge expenditure in making constructions thereon or political connections must not be treated as a justification for condoning this illegal act or for regularizing the illegal possession”, the bench underlined.
Referring to the apex court direction, Sutariya has written a letter to Gujarat chief secretary GR Aloria that, while AKSM has for long been fighting against the adverse environmental impact on vegetation because of such activities, the latest revelation through an RTI plea clearly suggests a lot of such "illegal" activity has been going on, on government and common village land.
The letter sought the chief secretary’s “immediate intervention” for stopping these illegal activities on not just on government or grazing land, but also on private land, as it is causing “immense harm to the health and agriculture of the tribal farmers.”
Demanding action against government officials who allowed such leases, the letter insisted that these illegal activities, especially on common grazing and government lands, must stop with immediate effect, and a process should begin to ensure that they are restored to the tribal villages.

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