Srinagar: A Right to Information query that CNN-IBN has accessed shows that the son of a senior Jammu and Kashmir minister was given permission to blast into forest land in violation of a Supreme Court order. It is a blatant misuse of power and was to benefit Mian Mehr Ali, son of the state's Forest and Environment Minister Mian Altaf Ahmad. The minister has, however, denied the allegations.
The RTI findings clearly establish how Mehr Ali has been granted permission to blast fragile mountain zone, partly in the Kangan forestland so that his stone-crusher could get cheap rocky material. The powerful forest and environment minister, who is the legislator of the Kangan constituency, has even managed to get the approval from other departments to get this government order passed. For the villagers, this controversial order has hit their daily existence.
"The mining happens in the mountains and the rocks fall on our villages," said a villager. "The rocks fall on our fields and harm our crops, they can be dangerous to people as well," another villager added.
Defying all rules, what is appalling is that the stone-crusher in the midst of a residential area had in fact come at a place where a primary school had been constructed for the backward Gujjar community. A concrete road was even built to the mountain so that raw material for the crusher can be obtained.
When CNN-IBN took up the issue with officials, they passed the buck, but promised a probe. Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, District officer, Ganderbal, Department of Geology and Mining, said, "I would say that it is forest area, that is why no quarrying permission is given. If we find something wrong, we can stop it."
"We have given all records that the RTI application sought and now we will even probe this entire case," Ganderbal District Magistrate Itrat Husain said. The forest minister has denied the allegation. "I can confidently say that the land was not forest land but had been earmarked for quarrying," Mian Altaf said.