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Possible Strategies for Tug of War between High Court and Workers of Sand Quarrying: A Scholarly View

By - Dr Mayengbam Lalit Singh

The great problem in economics is Pareto Optimality which states that one can’t be better off without worsening off others. Over period of many years, sand quarrying sector has been booming in Manipur, without analysing its negative externality (pollution of river water). In order to solve it, High Court of Manipur, with consideration of PIL filed by riverbank inhabitants, recently took myopic order which bans sand quarrying. This yields in Pandora Decision which leads to loss of job for thousands of workers coupled with uproar. The present article explains pros and cons of sand quarrying and possible solutionary policies through the prism of economics.  Despite such externality, there are merit points for sand quarrying s mentioned below:1)    Sand quarrying creates jobs to landless workers and marginal farmers. It is reported that a worker can earn five hundred rupees as wage in a day. These poor workers can spend their earnings on fees of their kids, managing family expenditures, cloths, social and cultural ceremonies.  2)    As multiplier effect, it generates jobs to transporters who are shifting from quarrying sites to all construction sites. Nowadays in Manipur, many workers have been engaging in construction sector exponentially which replaces erstwhile nonlocal workers in construction sector. 3)    From the point of inward looking policy, sand quarrying promotes self reliance on domestic resources. It checks our expenditure which is supposed to be drifted into clearance of import of this sand from other states.
4)    It generates respectable revenue to government. At present, forest department collects revenue from the transporters on daily basis and contributes to state domestic product.
5)    Sand quarrying is also good for environment if censored (with proper rules and regulations) properly. This practice is mainly found in upstream part of a river where the breadth of it covers a vast area. If not mined to a certain level of depth, a river can encroaches inhabitant areas with a great volume of torrential water with minimal depth during rainy season. Moreover, if the depth decreases, there is high possibility of changing its course which may lead to detrimental effect to lives and property. Hence, annual mining with proper regulation is good in maintaining course and flow of river.
Despite the merit points, the over exploitation and indifference to proper rules & regulations lead to short and long term destructions as mentioned below:1)    In short term, unregulated mining causes negative externality such as pollution of water with mud. This is very common to all rivers where quarrying activities are going on. It yields in muddy water which can’t be utilised for thousands of inhabitants along the river.
2)    In long term, over mining of sand beyond the certain depth of river causes topographical damages. Elaborately, it may lead to landslide of vast area of river bank during rainy season that yields in neighbouring inhabitant area into river bed in subsequent years.

It is duty of state government to frame policies so that both the workers and inhabitants can attain the certain level of their benefit. Following are the set of policies which are framed after consultation to both workers and inhabitants:
1)    Sand quarrying areas are mostly confined to upstream part where width of the river covers a vast area. In order to void of pollution, mining can be confined to half of the width of river bypassing water stream into other half for certain period. When mining attains certain level of depth, stream can be diverted to that half part and other untapped can be mined. Such policy can stop pollution and on the other hand mining can’t be affected in long term.2)    Government should set up regulatory bodies which comprise administrators, scientists (mainly geologists), officials of forest and water resources departments, etc. to monitor sand quarrying activities.
3)    Government also should frame policies to include sand quarrying under formal sector so that miners should follow certain rules and regulations. But this policy should not lead to formation of collusive mining bodies. Workers and transporters should be treated under this formal sector so that their official rights should be protected.
4)    Government should conduct survey annually and hold meeting regularly.

Referring to Chakpi River at Serou, Kakching district, workers opine that inhabitants hardly rely on river water. Instead, they rely on bore wells for domestic use. Moreover, river is flowing towards Mynamar and hence mining never causes negative externality to local inhabitants. Moreover, mining inhibits encroachment of river towards inhabitant areas. Finally it is duty of government to formulate policies to achieve welfare being of both workers and local inhabitants by regulating them under such strict policies.

***** Dr. Mayengbam Lalit Singh, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Economics, Kha Manipur College Kakching. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Last modified onFriday, 09 August 2019 09:09

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