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Govt asked to form mines & minerals task force battalion


GUWAHATI, Oct 21 - In response to successive PILs filed by Debabrata Saikia, Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly, in connection with alleged illegal mining in the Dikhow river and nearby areas, and consequent ecological damage, the Gauhati High Court today directed the Assam government to constitute a �Mines and Minerals Task Force Battalion� under the mines and minerals department within three months for taking timely and independent action to prevent illegal mining of any sort in the State.

The high court also directed the State government to set up a high level committee comprising representatives of the home and political department, water resources department, mines and minerals department, forest and environment department, revenue and disaster management department, soil conservation department and Pollution Control Board to study the fragile ecosystem of the Dikhow river and recommend measures for its preservation, said a statement issued by Saikia who has also been permitted the liberty to provide evidence to the committee.

Saikia had filed a PIL (No. 78/2018) last year seeking intervention of the high court to stop alleged illegal mining in the Dikhow river and adjoining areas and the court had in January directed the government to probe the matter, take action and intimate the Leader of the Opposition.

�However, the forest and environment department and the mines and minerals department subsequently provided contradictory responses. While the Commissioner and Secretary, Mines and Minerals Department admitted that there was some illegal mining activity in the area and seizure of illegally extracted materials was being made from time to time, the Secretary, Forest and Environment Department flatly denied the existence of illegal mining in the river Dikhow, the statement said.

This prompted Saikia to file a second PIL (No. 62/2019) through advocate Syed Burhanur Rahman, which resulted in the latest directives of the high court.

The Leader of the Opposition also raised the issue of illegal mining in the Dikhow river and other areas of the State on a number of occasions in the Assembly and other fora, urging the State government to take measures to curb such illegal mining.

�However, Saikia�s warnings and requests alike have failed to elicit any tangible action from the government so far. The latest directives from the high court are expected to finally induce the government to take action against illegal mining in various parts of Assam,� the statement said.

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