Non-local firms bag majority of mineral extraction contracts in Kashmir

Local contractors accuse authorities of twisting clauses in favour of outsiders

Of the total 95 percent mineral blocks auctioned by Geology and Mining Department in Kashmir, the non-local mining companies have bagged majority of the contracts for extraction of minerals from water bodies with locals accusing authorities of "twisting clauses" in favour of outsiders.

Sources said that majority of mineral blocks auctioned for extraction of minerals are now under the control of non-local contractors who have won online bids invited by the Geology and Mining Department.

"Prior to August 2019, the minerals from water bodies were extracted exclusively by locals who used to pay royalty to the department. As the J&K's special status was abrogated it paved the way for non-locals to compete in the e-auctioning for extraction of Kashmir's minerals," they said.

According to Geology and Mining department's data, the non-local contractors have bagged majority of mineral blocks in all the districts of Kashmir where the bidding has been completed.

In Srinagar, all 10 blocks have gone to the non-resident contractors against the bidding amount of Rs 5.08 crore. In North Kashmir's Baramulla district, 38 blocks of minerals have fetched Rs 20.15 crore to the department. Of these, 26 have been secured by contractors from outside of Kashmir for the first time in the history of Jammu and Kashmir.

In Budgam, the total 7 blocks auctioned at Rs 4.67 crore, 4 on the river Jhelum have gone to contractors from Punjab, while Kashmiri contractors have bagged the remaining three blocks on tributaries of Jhelum.

Outside companies have won mining rights over more than 60% blocks in Pulwama district.

Joint Director, Geology and Mining Department, Imtiyaz Ahmad said that around 95 percent auctioning of the mineral blocks have been completed in Kashmir. "The e-auctioning was done under the watch of concerned deputy commissioners who headed the committees in their respective jurisdictions. Apart from DCs, there were members from other departments such as I&FC, Geology and Mining who oversaw the process."

However, the local contractors, political parties and traders' bodies have flayed the government for "handing over Kashmir's resources to outside companies".

"The condition and clauses which were incorporated in the bidding process gave a clear hint that the process is aimed to handover mineral blocks to outside companies. Despite all this, local contractors participated but non-availability of internet during winter months when the process was started gave a clear edge to outsiders who won around 90 percent of contracts for extraction of minerals in Kashmir," said President Quarry Association Muhammad Maqbool Parra.

President Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries Sheikh Ashiq said even as the Department of Geology and Mining fetched good revenue from the sale of these mineral blocks, the result of high bidding prices has increased the prices of sand across Kashmir.

"There is no way that the local contractors can compete and thus are at disadvantage," he said.

He said while the Government may see increase in revenue as a positive sign, the consequential increase in material costs for the consumers suggest that it is the local consumers who have to pay the price.

President  JKApni Party AltafBukhari has also demanded that all the left out mineral blocks in J&K should be well demarcated and notified within the radius of around eight km for stone crusher units and at least 50 per cent of these demarcated blocks should be reserved for local stakeholders.

Bukhari said the faulty policies of the government have led to shortage of key construction material which has not only resulted into huge cost escalation but has also put the developmental activities to a grinding halt in both private and public sectors across J&K.

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