Online bidding for Jhelum sand mining contracts go to outsiders in Kashmir as locals face internet woes

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Since 1947 for the first time ever in the history of Jammu and Kashmir, non-local companies have bagged a majority of contracts for the extraction of minerals from the water bodies of Kashmir.

Data accessed by Groundreport.in showed non-local contractors have bagged a majority of mineral block in all the districts of Kashmir valley, where the bidding has been completed.

In Srinagar, all 10 blocks have gone into the kitty of non-resident contractors against the bidding amount of Rs 5.08 crore.

In North Kashmir’s Baramulla, 38 blocks of minerals have fetched Rs 20.15 crore to the department of geology and mining. Of these, 26 have been secured by contractors from outside of Kashmir valley for the first time in the history of Jammu and Kashmir.

Same in other districts of Kashmir valley, in Budgam, the total 7 blocks auctioned at Rs 4.67 crore, 4 on the river Jhelum have gone into contractors from Punjab, while Kashmiri contractors have bagged the remaining three blocks on tributaries of Jhelum.

Same as other districts outside companies have won mining rights over more than 60% blocks in Pulwama district.

Even as the Department of Geology and Mining fetched good revenue from the sale of these mineral blocks, the result of high bidding prices has increased the prices of sand across Kashmir.
Most of the blocks of the River Jehlum have all been handed over to non-locals.

Some of the blocks include Panzinara to Hargopal Chek Mujgund, Tengpora Bridge to village Hargopal Chek, Choochan Noorbagh bridge to Tengpora bridge, Palapora Bridge to Choochan Noorbagh bridge, Guzarbal Norbagh to Parimpora bridge, Qamarwari Cement bridge to Lift Irrigation Guzarbal Noorbagh, Padshahi Bagh to Rajbagh Foot Bridge, Ganderbal Foot Bridge to Water Scheme Padhahibagh, Pandhraten bridge to under construction Ganderbal Foot Bridge and Lasjan bridge to Pandhraten bridge.

“I used to sell a sand tractor between Rs 2,500 and Rs 2,700. Now, the same quantity of sand is available to us from sand miners at a whopping Rs 3,500. That means we have to sell it between Rs 4,000 and Rs 4,500,” said sand dealer Mohammad Yasin from Khawajabgh Baramulla, where many such sand blocks along the Jhelum are located.

Local sand diggers however, alleged that the terms and conditions of contract were such that only non-locals will were bound to qualify. “We were unable to pay such a huge amount,” they said adding that this trend will render them permanently jobless.

Reacting to reports that non-local companies have bagged a majority of contracts for the extraction of minerals from the water bodies of Kashmir, former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah said that the ban on high speed mobile internet has impacted local businesses as they are unable to participate in online bidding for tenders and contracts.

“The ban on high speed mobile internet impacts local businesses in Kashmir as they are unable to participate in online bidding for tenders & contracts. #4ginkashmir #Kashmir,” Abdullah, who is the Vice President of National Conference (NC), wrote on micro-blogging site twitter.

High speed internet, including 4G services of all Cellular companies, remained suspended in Kashmir valley since August 5 last year, when centre scrapped Article 370 and divided the state into two Union Territories (UTs).

Only 2 G internet service was resumed in January this year after the Supreme Court (SC) directed the UT administration to review providing of internet facilities to consumers after every week. In the latest review, the committee decided that only 2G speed internet will continue in the Jammu and Kashmir till July 8.