|The blockade on NH31D at Paharpur More near Jalpaiguri on Friday. Picture by Biplab Basak|
TT, Jalpaiguri, Aug. 26: Over 1,500 people associated with mining of sand, stones and pebbles and their transportation raised an hour-long road blockade on NH31D near here today, demanding administrative clearance to resume their extraction from riverbeds.
Since March this year, the extraction of the sand and stones from the riverbeds has been stopped following an order by the National Green Tribunal.
Contractors who carry out such mining against permits issued by the state irrigation department, workers employed by them, truck owners who ferry such materials to construction sites, along with drivers and cleaners of trucks, raised the blockade at Paharpur More. It brought traffic to a halt on the highway.
The blockade was held by 12 associations of different stakeholders, who formed a joint committee.
“In Jalpaiguri district, over one lakh people who earn their living by mining riverbeds have been jobless for the past four-five months. Collection of construction materials from riverbeds has completely stopped and most of the workers are finding it tough to arrange two square meals for their families,” Shyam Prasad, the convener of the joint committee, said.
“We are left with no other option but to launch a movement to draw the administration’s attention.”
Suman Bagdas, the deputy magistrate, spoke to the agitators, after which the blockade was lifted.
“It is not an issue which the district administration can resolve. It is a matter concerning the state government and most importantly, the matter is pending before the National Green Tribunal. Even then, we came here to listen to their problems,” the official said.
The demonstrators, however, said they had given 12 hours’ time to the administration. “We have given 12 hours’ time to the district administration to resolve the issue and see that we can resume our work. Otherwise, we will launch an extensive movement and even call a general strike,” Prasad said.