TT, Siliguri, July 19: Contractors who used to mine riverbeds for sand, pebbles and boulders and truck owners who hire out the vehicles to ferry the items took out a rally today demanding that the state government take steps to withdraw the digging ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal.
Around 12noon, contractors, truck owners and workers engaged in digging riverbeds took out a rally from Hill Cart Road and walked up to the subdivisional office on Kutcheri Road and blocked it for about 30 minutes.
The blockade by over 1,000 people was lifted after police arrival. A delegation of 10-odd people submitted a memorandum to Panicker Harishanker, the Siliguri SDO.
“Since March this year, mining in all riverbeds has been stopped. The state government is not allowing collection of boulders, sand and pebbles from riverbeds. Due to the sudden halt of work, around two lakh people in Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling districts have become jobless. If the ban is not lifted, these people will become penniless,” Mintu Das, president of the Jalpaiguri District Riverbed Quarry Permit Holders’ Welfare Association, said. “Due to the restrictions, constructions, both in government and private sectors, are being hampered.”
Boulders, sand and pebbles are used for construction in north Bengal and also exported to Bangladesh.
“We have made it clear to the official that we will wait for 10 days. Otherwise, we will launch an extensive movement in north Bengal,” Das said.
Raju Das, secretary of the Darjeeling Jalpaiguri Riverbed Materials Truck Owners’ Welfare Association, said: “We have around 10,000 trucks engaged in the sector which have been lying idle since March.”