Persons affected by stone-quarry ban:HC Asks Govt to Reveal Rehab Policy

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Srinagar: The J&K High Court has granted government two weeks time for disclosing steps taken by it for the rehabilitation of those persons affected by ban on stone quarrying in the state.

A division bench of Justices Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and H K Hanjura granted the time as sought for by the counsel representing the government.

In compliance to earlier court directions, the state government had revealed that committee, constituted for the purpose, held two meets in the month of April this year for rehabilitation of the affected persons.

“Till date no fresh status report has been filed as to what steps have been taken and what decision has been taken by the authorities for rehabilitation of those whose story quarry units were closed,” the court observed. Subsequently, the counsel representing the state sought two weeks time for revealing the steps taken and court granted the same.

The high court has time and again 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 one the previous hearing, Financial Commissioner Industries and Commerce Department 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.

 

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