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The Gauhati High Court on Monday directed the Assam government to constitute a Mines and Minerals Task Force Battalion within three months.

HC said the task force needs to be formed under the Mines and Mineral Department for taking timely and independent action to prevent illegal mining of any sort within the state.

The court’s instruction came in response to successive PILs filed by Leader of Opposition in Assam Legislative Assembly, Debabrata Saikia.

He filed the PIL in connection with illegal mining in Dikhow river and nearby areas and consequent ecological damage caused.

“The Court also directed the state government to set up a High-Level Committee comprising representatives of the Home and Political Department, Water Resources Department, Mines and Mines Department, Forest and Environment Department, Revenue and Disaster Management Department, Soil Conservation Department and Pollution Control Board to study the fragile eco-system of the river Dikhow and recommend measures for its preservation,” said Saikia’s counsel advocate SB Rahman.

The court also permitted Saikia the liberty to provide all available evidence to the High-Level Committee.

Saikia had last year filed a PIL (No.78/2018) last year seeking the intervention of the High Court to stop rampant illegal mining in the river Dikhow and adjoining areas and the High Court had, in January this year, directed the government to investigate the matter, take suitable action and intimate Saikia.

“However, the Forest and Environment Department and Mines and Mineral Department subsequently provided contradictory responses to Saikia,” said Rahman.

“The Commissioner and Secretary of the Mines and Minerals Department admitted that there was some illegal mining activity in the area,” Rahman added,

“Even though illegally extracted materials were seized from time to time, the Secretary of the Forest and Environment Department, however, flatly denied the existence of illegal mining in Dikhow,” advocate Rahman added.

Debabrata Saikia raised the issue of illegal mining in Dikhow and other areas of the state on a number of occasions in the Assam Legislative Assembly and other forums.

He urged the state government to curb illegal mining in view of unabated devastation of the environment, as also loss of revenue by the government.

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