In e-auction, Kashmir’s sand blocks go to non-local contractors

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Sand diggers extract sand from river Jhelum at Padgampora in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
Sand diggers extract sand from river Jhelum at Padgampora in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district. (Photo Credit: Younis Khaliq)

SRINAGAR — People in Kashmir are gradually feeling the effects of annulment of special status. Probably, for the first time since 1947, non-local bidders have been awarded sand extraction contracts.

If you will find the list of bidders and the sand extraction contract awarded by Geology and Mining Department, you won’t find any local but all are presumably non-local contractors.

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Tendering process to allot the work by the government has already rendered hundreds of sand diggers jobless.

In Kashmir, hundreds of families are directly or indirectly associated with this activity since decades and earn their livelihood through it.

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Most of the blocks of the River Jehlum have all been handed over to non-locals. Some of the blocks include Panzinara to Hargopal Chek Mujgund, Tengpora bridge to village Hargopal Chek, Choochan Noorbagh bridge to Tengpora bridge, Palapora bridge to Choochan Noorbagh bridge, Guzarbal Norbagh to Parimpora bridge, Qamarwari Cement bridge to Lift Irrigation Guzarbal Noorbagh, Padshahi Bagh to Rajbagh Foot Bridge, Ganderbal Foot Bridge to Water Scheme Padhahibagh, Pandhraten bridge to under construction Ganderbal Foot Bridge and Lasjan bridge to Pandhraten bridge.

Earlier, local sand diggers used to pay royalty to government and extract sand but now the situation is totally different, said local sand diggers.

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An official said that this time they went for e-auction of hundreds of sand blocks along the river Jhelum and its tributaries. “In fact, local bidders too participated but the highest bidders were awarded the contracts. It is good for the department as it will generate more revenue,” he said.

Local sand diggers, however, alleged that the terms and conditions of contract were such that only non-locals were bound to qualify. “We were unable to pay such a huge amount,” they said, adding that this trend will render them permanently jobless.

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