Thursday, 19 May 2011

Forget Pakistan, Mafia Destroying IAF Airbases

The Indian Air Force stations in Jaisalmer and Uttarlai are facing a security threat -- not from across the border but from within. Illegal miners have dug up very near to the air bases, forcing the authorities to shoot off letters to civil administration.

Though mining activities are banned within 900 from military stations, the mafia have dug up to 10 metres from Uttarlai IAF station in Barmer district.

In fact, it is not the first time that the issue has been raised by the IAF. Rather, it was raised at almost every liaison meetings with the district authorities. Defence minister A K Antony, during his recent visit to Jaisalmer, had also voiced concern over illegal mining while interacting with the district authorities.

Defence spokesman Col S D Goswami confirmed that the issue was once again raised during the recent civil-military liaison conference, attended by authorities of both the districts. "We requested the district authorities for a revised demarcation of the area and to ensure that no mining activities are allowed within 900 metres from the base," said Goswami.

Most of the illegal mining are done in the evening and at night, said sources. The mafia is involved in mining gypsum in areas near the Uttarlai airbase, which is supplied to the plaster of paris units in Barmer, said sources.

Barmer SDM C L Dewasi accepted that dealing with the mining mafia in the district is a major challenge. "Steps have been taken by the district authorities but since its a large area, we have not been completely successful," he says.

In Jaisalmer, it is the mining of yellow stone which is posing a security threat. Officially, the area allotted for mining of yellow stone in Jaisalmer is at least 900 metres away from the base but that's only on paper.

The then station commander at Jaisalmer Rajeev Ranjan in letters dated March 8, 2011 and March 22, 2011 had said that security threat due to illegal mining has increased manifold with the construction of new bomb dumps during the past couple of years. He informed the local authorities that mining activities were on near the gate number 5 and Radar head, which are located near plot number 163\223 and 164\224.

Jaisalmer collector Giriraj Singh Kushwaha said that specific directives were issued on April 11, 2011 with regard to illegal mining in the area. "A monitoring team has also been formed, which includes a representative from the airbase. The redemarcation of the area would also be undertaken soon," he said.