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20 Jul 2018

Team to scan quarries for reopening...Glare on Lok Sabha elections in govt bid to revive 200 closed units

A trial landing by a helicopter at Chandmari ground in Suri on Thursday, ahead of the visit by the secretaries. Picture by Dwijodas Ghosh
Snehamoy Chakraborty Jul 20, 2018: Suri: The Bengal government has deputed a committee of secretaries to find a way out to reopen more than 200 stone quarries in Birbhum as soon as possible.

The quarries were closed since September, 2016 following a National Green Tribunal order.

Members of the committee - land and land reforms secretary Manoj Pant, secretary micro, small and medium enterprises secretary Rajiva Sinha, industry secretary S. Kishore and secretary of environment department Indevar Pandey - will reach Birbhum on Friday by a helicopter. They will hold meetings with the district authorities and other stakeholders of the stone quarries.

"The team will try to find out a way to reopen the closed stone quarries. We are hopeful of a solution soon," said Bikash Roy Chowdhury, the sabhadhipati of Trinamul-controlled Birbhum zilla parishad.

The initiative by the government to reopen the closed quarries has drawn the attention of the political and administrative circles as many feel that the ruling party is desperate to reopen the closed quarries before the Lok Sabha polls next year. Nearly 8 lakh people are dependent on the stone industries of Birbhum to earn their livelihood.

The state's push to find out a solution to the problem has become a point of discussion at Nabanna as the government did not initiate any major step to solve the problem in the past 18 months.

"Only a group of ministers (GoM) was set up last year. The GoM had sought a report from the district authorities, but nothing was done. Sending four senior officers to the spot to find a way out indicates that the state is serious about the problem," said an official.

A section of the officials said results of recent panchayat polls might have forced the ruling establishment to initiate measures to reopen the closed units.

The quarries fall in the jurisdiction of Birbhum Lok Sabha segment, which the BJP considers to be a "promising" seat. The BJP has done well in Mohammedbazar that falls under the jurisdiction of Birbhum Lok Sabha constituency.

In Mohammedbazar, the BJP bagged 26 out of 89 gram panchayat seats where elections were held. "The success is considered significant as more than 80 per cent of the seats in the district went uncontested due to alleged terror unleashed by Trinamul," said a source.

According to sources, the task of the officers would not be easy as the state's hands off land policy comes in the way solving the problem.

"The National Green Tribunal had ordered to allot the stone quarries through auctions. As the quarries in Birbhum are located on private lands, it is not possible to auction the plots unless these are acquired by the government," said an official.

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