The Dhaula Tappar area in Dehradun district of Uttarakhand has become a contentious point between Himachal Pradesh (HP) and Uttarakhand. While Himachal claims that around 25 hectares land near Bata Mandi in the area falls under Paonta Sahib, forest officials of Uttarakhand are claiming that the area belongs to Timli range of Kalsi Forest Division.
Though the river Yamuna segregates Paonta and Kalsi, it is believed that over the years the river changed its course and blurred the border line.
This matter has escalated since the end of 2018, when river mining in the disputed part was started by a native of Himachal, Anil Sharma, on a lease accorded by the Revenue Department of Sirmaur in Himachal. Pooja Rawal, range officer of Timli range of Kalsi Forest Department told NewsClick, “When we objected to river mining in our area and imposed a penalty of Rs 50,000, Anil Sharma paid the penalty with an apology on an affidavit admitting that he mistakenly strayed into our area. Thereafter Sharma gave up mining. Now Jagdish Tomar , another native who is politically well-connected, is doing rampant mining in the area by flouting the rules.”
In his response, Suresh Bhardwaj, mining officer of Sirmaur, explained by saying, “This lease was allotted over a portion of 43 bigha land near Bata Mandi for a period of 15 years. Another lease over 40 bigha land has also been approved recently. Our revenue records clearly show that the contentious land belongs to the State of HP which has been owned by a few of the state’s residents. Uttarakhand forest officials are causing undue interference in the mining work.”
He also challenged Uttarakhand forest officials to produce documentary evidence to prove that the land belongs to their state.
Kunal Angrish, divisional forest official of Paonta Sahib, threw some more light on the matter saying, “A joint survey of disputed land was conducted last year by the authorised official of Surveyor General of India in the presence of revenue and forest officials of Paonta Sahib and forest officials of Kalsi FD. It was found that the land belongs to Himachal. However, Kalsi FD officials did not accept the Surveyor General of India’s toposheet report in this matter.”
The photos provided by the Kalsi FD and accessed by NewsClick show that a pathway made of sand, gravel, etc., has been made to reach out close to the river for mining and, mechanical mining is being conducted with JCB at night, thus flouting the provision of Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines 2016. Deep ditches have been created at the river bank with over extraction of material.
Miner Tomar however refuted the allegations saying that he did not flout any rule. With regard to rules violations, Suresh Bhardwaj, mining officer at Sirmaur, said that he has not received any such complaints and would verify the facts at the ground.
Tomar said he made the pathway to be able to collect the sand material. He, too, denied employing a JCB to collect mining material at night. However, he pointed fingers at Kalsi officials saying that they were unnecessarily intervening in his work owing to which he had to move the High Court of Himachal Padesh, Shimla which has directed forest officials not to obstruct mining work any more.
Meanwhile, Uttarakhand officials are trying to locate evidence to support their claim. “We will trace the old records which substantiate our stand. Moreover, it is being projected by our opponents that Uttarakhand was part of Himachal like a few of other neighbouring states in olden times which is why the areas got merged. In the old documents of pre-1858, Sirmaur was a different territory which included Punjab, Haryana and Himachal. Uttarakhand was never part of Sirmaur. It was always a part of Uttar Pradesh before being carved out as an independent state,” said a forest official of Kalsi FD.
“Tomar has also asked for a compensation of Rs 2 crore for incurring business losses alluding to alleged frequent interference in mining. Usually, government officials are not made party by name in the case but Tomar has dragged me and a sub-divisional officer by name in this case, which means that no matter where I get transferred next, I will have to go for hearing till the case is settled by Shimla High Court. It is a personal vendetta,” Rawal of Timri range said, adding that a police complaint was also lodged against her for the same by Tomar.
Rawal said that she has also served three notices to Tomar for conducting illegal mining in the state’s forest land, which was a part of the legal procedure to book a miner in the Uttarakhand Court. “It pains to see how illegal mining is being carried out on Uttarakhand’s land by exploiting our natural resources,” she said.