Despite govt project, illegal mining continues at MP religious sites

The BJP government has offered to conserve sites associated with the Ramayana in Sri Lanka, but has failed to stem illegal mining that has damaged sites of religious importance in its own backyard.

As part of an ambitious project called Ram Vangaman Path, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government had planned to link religious spots in Madhya Pradesh that fell on the route Lord Rama is believed to have taken on his way to exile. Recently, however, it was revealed that in at least two places, that were to be developed as part of the project, alleged illegal mining was taking place.

Even though the project was conceived more than five years ago, illegal mining continues. Some reduction has been seen in the extent of mining done in the past few months after people protested, but the practice has not stopped completely.

Before the project was conceived, mining was legally permitted near Siddha Pahad and Sarbhang Ashram in Satna. However, mining has continued even after the leases expired. The two sites are among several spots of religious importance identified by official search parties that toured the forests in the state in March 2009 and August 2010.

Advocate Nityananda Mishra alleged that it was only after prolonged correspondence that the state government and the administration of Satna district acted on illegal mining. "Though lakhs of rupees have been sanctioned for the project there is little development on the ground. Worse, illegal mining is taking its toll on places of religious importance,'' said Mishra, who has collected details of expenditure under the RTI Act. He said he would soon move the High Court.

"The BJP uses Rama for political gains but shows no interest in protecting places associated with the epic,'' said Congress chief Kantilal Bhuria, who alleged that illegal mining was still rampant.

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