‘Washed away villages’ resurface in Haryana

The "resurfacing" of two villages in Haryana's Yamunanagar district, which were allegedly washed away by floods, has come to haunt the district's former revenue officials.

Officials like the tehsildar, sub-divisional magistrates and the deputy commissioners are in the dock for having declared that three villages had been "washed away in floods" in order to accommodate and grant permissions to 96 stone crushers in Yamunanagar.

The alleged nexus between the stone crushers' lobby and district revenue officials was unearthed when the State Pollution Control Board discovered that the villages are very much in place.

The case pertains to the setting up of 96 stone crushers in Yamunanagar district during 2002-04. The Haryana government had notified a Stone Crushers Zone in Yamunanagar in 1997 and a government-run stone crusher was set up in the area. According to the government's notification, the crusher was to be set up at the site, which was at least a kilometre away from the habitation.

Following the government crusher, a number of crushers started coming up in the area surrounding two villages — Ballahmajra and Kohliwala — from 1997. Maximum of these were set up during 2002-04. For setting up the stone crushers, the owners were required to seek permission from the district administration, which was allegedly based on reports given by district revenue officials.

According to sources, the then district revenue officials had declared that Ballahmajra and Kohliwala had been "bechiraag" (washed away in floods) and measured the "safe distance" for setting up of crushers from another village, Devdhar. Following this, people started setting up their stone crushers.

A stone crusher operator, Rampal Kamboj, filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2007, alleging certain irregularities in grant of permissions to other crushers. However, the high court questioned the State Pollution Control Board to ascertain the facts and even summoned its chairman, asking him to file an affidavit on the actual status of the area. The Board got a survey conducted and discovered the nexus.

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