The function was elaborate, the props also were, the gentry in a high flying mode, the proposals more for ruining Mendhar were put forward and the people left on a limbo!
‘Dry river bed mining is a job that pays hell of a lot of money and the contracts are always taken by heft muscled contractors and gives the state exchequer a lot of money and to the contractor even more. The locals as such were getting peanuts and with this proposal they will further be reduced to nothingness since many have their lands which are adjacent to river beds and they are ownership lands. Pollution control board has done nothing encouraging in UT Jammu and Kashmir instead they have been big players in getting the environment polluted and now they are moving into the hilly tracts to destroy the ecological balance disturbed in a place which three decades no one ventured into. They could not have’!
Another fact but who cares:
‘Guidelines on the extraction of sand say that the amount of sand removed should be in proportion to its replenishment rate and river width. Mining from a braided channel with a wide floodplain will have less impact than from a narrow channel. Manual mining is preferred over the use of machines but enforcement and monitoring of these guidelines remain weak. In J&K they are bound to remain with loose strands and in Mendhar the problem is that the situation always remains fragile and feeble and the reasons are well known. It’s the people who matter here. The place was engulfed by security hassles, the army pulled the same out of the dungeons, the calm on the LOC is not a guaranteed bond because Pakistan can come up with anything stupid, the administration works on half cocked assurances, the people have several locks in their psyches, the politicians are a forgotten lot for the moment, drugs are a heavy weight problem and now with this mining fiasco coming the environment is bound to be under a hydraulic pump. If the pollution control committee of J&K cannot improve the matrix then why destroy it’! At the moment they are doing so in a perfect manner!
Money, business, contracts, yep! Everything is needed for development but not the cost of destroying the environment and now Mendhar river in the target zone and tomorrow all downstream flowing down the Pir Panjals would be under the same pump. But who takes the benefit? Obviously not the locals but those who come and get the contracts because a lucrative business chart buster has unfolded in Mendhar but not necessarily for the people as such. It’s a lucrative business, sand mining from rivers done unscientifically is found to affect the ecology of the area. Incidentally Mendhar town is still a Panchayat and a resounding function was organized by J&K Pollution Control Committee who does work perhaps but the factor called as science for them is a distance away.
River sand is preferred for construction because it requires less processing. River sand is preferred for construction because it requires less processing and so are the pebbles (Bajri) and boulders. Legal/illegal and unscientific sand mining is turning out to be one of the biggest ecological disasters in modern India. Around 26 people, including journalists and police officers, lost their lives in 2017, 28 got knocked off in 2018 and 193 in 2019-20 while trying to stop illegal sand mining. More will in case contracts would be dished out in elaborate manners as one is being in Mendhar as per the proposals presented in PWD guest house in Panchayat Mendhar (I should be calling the town the same).
A few states are exploring options like manufactured sand, produced by crushing of rocks and quarry stones, to meet the ever-increasing demand of the construction industry. The new sand mining framework suggests the use of geo-fencing, and GPS-enabled transportation to check legal/illegal mining. Price control, the involvement of women self-help groups and regular audits of sand reserves have also been recommended. Did someone talk about these facts in the meeting which was supposedly a grand stand one?
The story of Mendhar so far has been that the difference between rich and poor is that the poor do everything with their own hands and the rich hire hands to do things. The poor are never helped by the administration or the officials. Instead they are made to climb up the gum tree and thus made to slip and they fall with a thud to get their bodies and psyches disturbed and mangled. At this moment their living could be hurt and that too badly because their fertile lands are in the middle of Mendhar river bed.
I The grand PWD House meeting:
The Pollution control committee came up with a proposal all embalmed in some great cosmetics with documents prepared by the best drafters of the English language. The men in attendance were Additional District Development Commissioner Basharat Hussein Inqalabi (great surname derived from the word ‘Inqalaab’), SDM Mendhar Sahil Jandial (the man who known Mendhar but has not understood the people), Dr. Vikram Kumar (great again but still not understood what great result he has produced), SDPO ZA. Jaffri (a fighter to the core no doubt but has his own specifications since the uniform tends to hide emotion) Manzoor Kohli the SHO (who loves doing things his own way, very effective but reasons could vary), sarpanches (a selected few were present, elected but will dilly dally with money, they think that they know everything yet they know nothing in this sahib/officer syndrome). The star cast was massive and the movie was a blockbuster all the way but the people rejected it.
For the initial draw the glamour was there, the gate where money was abundantly spent (by whom is not known) the gourmet for the elite was a specialized one because the selected chefs were from Rajouri but for the locals it was a simple digestible Indian food, rice/pulses, they are extraordinary and sumptuous after listening to elaborate but boring thoughtless lectures where nothing is understood and by the way Indian Army’s tea (chai) and fritters (pakoras) would have been enough. But Punjabi contractors who had been lined up have elaborate tastes.
What was missing was the music but the locals with their vibrant voices filled it with their voices (I will come to that in the conclusion)
The areas had been calculated and the area of interest was Chajjla where about fourteen hectares of land had been earmarked for the mining and divided into three blocks. The idea was great for business because Punjabis have the money and the locals do not. But the locals have the land that they have kept closer to their embrace. Rivers flow down from Pir Panjals and they are property of nature and not those who address people sitting inside a guest house with security cover?
If asked from people from the humanity of Mendhar, one reply would be unanimous, ‘what is honor, my dear, the reply coming in would be definitive one, when you have nothing to eat? And these lands give us maize and curd’!
II. What the people said:
The poor are the last to be invited to gatherings such as this. The reason is because of the vote. If they decide not to then nothing is plausible! The leaders should know that. Times are changing and it is worse ones staring at us! Do not destroy nature because the strike back is deadly. The virus in the air is a reply back from nature. It’s deadly because tomorrow oxygen also may not be able to support you! To many it could not! This is what the locals said:
We will not allow this mining fiasco to carry on.
This is a game of circumstances and using the same to their own advantage.
Security wise and administratively the people are not yet well equipped and concrete is no guarantee of survival for ever as mud houses were/are.
Dry river bed will destroy Mendhar!
Basharat Hussein did take a call. How serious it was depends on Inderjeet the DC. I know he will do so with the methodology of a philosopher and an administrative gentleman/genius.
For the moment J&K Pollution Board could help in cleaning up cities of Jammu and Srinagar rather than going for destruction of the countryside.
Last question by the way whose brilliant idea was it? Remembrance of things past is just for the rich. For the poor it only marks the faint traces on the path to death. This mining could starve them of their only natural resource which is seasonal and gives them food! No one asks poor people if they want development of this kind. No one ever did in modern day times after the renaissance period when diseases became part of life! They have and that too seriously! First the strangers came with argument and authority and the verbal gunpowder they spilled to back up both. Nothing could break down this wall, and they could remain whole within the wall. The people will stand tall all the way!