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Violation Of NGT Order In Jharkhand

In a run up to the foundation day celebration of Jharkhand State on November 15, the Raghubar Das Government in the State has resolved to dedicate 2.22 lakh homes to people with inadequate annual income under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana

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The blanket ban on sand mining during monsoon by the National Green Tribunal has put a question mark on the on-going construction work under the Central Government’s flagship schemes in Jharkhand. The construction of houses and household toilets under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and Swachh Bharat Mission, respectively, has enough reasons to cast aspersions about the compliance of the NGT’s order by the State Government.

The legal diktat has, in fact, turned out to be at variance with the political ploy by the BJP dispensation in Jharkhand to achieve its populist targets. The State Government has pegged a target of completing over two lakh homes and public toilets by November 15 that is in contravention of the National Green Tribunal’s order to suspend mining of sand during monsoon season.

In a run up to the foundation day celebration of Jharkhand State on November 15, the Raghubar Das Government in the State has resolved to dedicate 2.22 lakh homes to people with inadequate annual income under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. However, the fate of the Government’s ambitious scheme has hung in the balance with the prohibitory order of the NGT to stop sand mining till October 15, 2017. The NGT has ordered the State Government to stop mining of sand from riverbeds in view of possible damage to the ecology of rivers.

In its order, the NGT said: “In view of sub clause (k) of clause 1 under Management Plan and conditions 10 of the Standard Environment Conditions For Sand Mining contained in the Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines, 2016 issued by the Ministry of Forest and Environment, we direct the State of Jharkhand to prohibit any sand mining on the riverbed during the rainy season.”

Experts opine that rainwater percolates through sand and extraction of sand during the monsoon season denied the rainwater to percolate below the surface as such. However, the compliance of the order appears to be a distant possibility in the light of the fact that the Jharkhand Government cannot afford to compromise with its populist exercise by keeping the housing scheme at abeyance for want of supply of sand.

The State Government has been, in fact, left with no option except either to stop the construction work till the end of the monsoon season that covers the period between June 10 and October 15 in Jharkhand (as per the list of normal dates of onset and withdrawal of south-west monsoon issued by the India Meteorological Department, Nagpur) or continue with its projects in defiance of the NGT’s order. If well-placed sources in the department concerned are to be believed, the Government has preferred to go by the set deadline to complete the construction work by November 15 ostensibly in violation of the prohibitory order.

Sources claimed that the violation of the NGT order was evident from the fact that construction work for houses and toilets under the PMAY scheme was on in the State during the monsoon season. Mining and supply of sand have been done under the patronage of officials in different districts of the State. However, in the light of the NGT order, operations to stop illegal mining were initially launched by the police in different districts, but the police force was subsequently reprimanded to continue with the operations and the district civil administration was entrusted with the task to look into the matter by the order of the Government instead for obvious reasons. The Government order is aimed to ensure safe undisrupted illegal mining and supply of sand for construction.

Sources confided that sand in different stockyards was inadequate for the huge demand needed to construct houses and toilets. Sand traders have also showed their inability to comply with the order to ensure undisrupted supply.

As per the PMAY scheme, each unit costs Rs 1.48 lakh including Rs 1.20 lakh for construction work Rs 16,000 remuneration (at the rate of 95 man-days) under MGNREGA and Rs 12,000 for construction of each household toilet. Besides, the State Government has a target to make 13.39 lakh household toilets across the State at a cost of Rs 12,000 per toilet during the current financial year. Interestingly, around 3.50 lakh toilets that have already been constructed allegedly in partial violation of the NGT prohibitory order are hardly in use for want of availability of water. Beneficiaries in rural areas in particular refused to use the toilets contending that when they have to fetch even drinking water every day from far away for want of a water source nearby, how are they expected to use household toilets that require substantial quantities of water to be kept clean? They preferred defecation in the open. The Government’s target to make Jharkhand an open defecation free (ODF) state appears to be a far cry for now as such.

To top it all, the Raghubar Das dispensation’s ploy to achieve the populist target by November 15 leads to have an adverse collateral impact on the system. If the political ploy rendered the legal diktat infructuous and encouraged illegitimate operations to obtain forbidden construction material, it does not have reason to continue with the squandering of funds on construction of toilets that are unlikely to be used for want of water.

The Government is, however, suggested to build community toilets in a row near water facilities. Suggestions from different sections of the society have been prompted by the contention that people who use open fields for defecation for want of water would have no reason to ignore toilets along waterlogged areas.