In a major development aimed at financially empowering the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), the Government has carried out amendments in the Jammu and Kashmir Minor Mineral Concession, Storage and Transportation Rules and conferred mining rights to these grass root level democratic institutions.
Moreover, an exercise has been set into motion to identify around 100 mining blocks at the initial stage for allotment to the Panchayati Raj Institutions so that they can start activities strictly in accordance with these Rules to raise funds for themselves as well as to supplement the efforts of the Geology and Mining Department in meeting the requirement of key construction material.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that decision about devolution of mining rights to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) through short term permits was taken by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory in the recent past and accordingly the Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam issued directions to the Commissioner Secretary of the Industries and Commerce Department to submit a proposal in this regard.
The proposal of the Industries and Commerce Department was recently examined and finally received the approval of the Lieutenant Governor. Accordingly, the Industries and Commerce Department has issued a notification conferring mining rights to the Panchayats.
The notification has been issued by the Commissioner Secretary to the Government, Industries and Commerce Department Manoj Kumar Dwivedi in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 15 read with Section 23C of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.
By way of this notification, the Government has carried out amendments in the J&K Minor Mineral Concession, Storage, Transportation of Minerals and Prevention of Illegal Mining Rules, 2016.
As per the notification, short term permit up to one hectare will be granted to the Panchayati Raj Institutions for the mining activities. In order to facilitate the Panchayati Raj Institutions, the Government has exempted requirement of payment of advance royalty by these grass root level democratic institutions.
Moreover, the Geology and Mining Department will apply and secure clearances like Mining Plans, Environmental Clearance and Consent to Operate from the competent authorities on behalf of the Panchayats and the same will be transferred to them. “This is being done to ensure that Panchayats don’t face hassle in completing the requisite formalities before actually starting mining activities”, sources said.
“This provision will be applicable till September 30, 2021 or till such period as may be notified by the Government”, read the notification issued by the Industries and Commerce Department.
In response to a question, sources said that as per the Jammu and Kashmir Minor Mineral Concession, Storage, Transportation of Minerals and Prevention of Illegal Mining Rules, 2016 the advance royalty is required to be paid but in respect of Panchayati Raj Institutions this provision has been modified and they will pay the royalty at the later stage.
With the issuance of notification, the Geology and Mining Department will start the exercise of identification of around 100 blocks at the initial stage (five in each district) in consultation with the Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Institutions and the exercise will be completed as expeditiously as possible so that decision of devolving the mining rights to PRIs can start yielding the desired results, sources said, adding “the Panchayats which will be allocated the blocks for mining activities will be identified in consultation with the Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj”.
They further said that the selected PRIs will carry out mining by hiring required machinery and this will facilitate them in raising funds through mining surpluses and address shortage of key construction material in the local market besides keeping a check on their prices.
When contacted, Director Geology and Mining Vikas Sharma confirmed that the process of identification of 100 blocks will be set into motion immediately. “These blocks will be separate from those for which auction exercise has already been initiated by the Government”, he added.
“On the basis of the success of 100 blocks, the department will also identify more blocks as now there is sufficient provision in the Rules”, he said in response to another question, adding “the Geology and Mining Department will hand-hold the Panchayati Raj Institutions in translating the decision of the Government into reality”.