Rajasthan set to allow legal mining of unique sandstone, needed to build Ram temple

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Jaipur/Ayodhya, Nov 19 (PTI) The district administration in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur is seeking the denotification of part of a wildlife sanctuary to allow the mining of a special sandstone, much sought after by builders including those constructing the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Thousands of tonnes of the pink sandstone mined in Bharatpur’s Bansi Paharpur have been sourced for the temple over the years, but much more is needed.

There were concerns in Ayodhya that supplies of this stone with a unique pink hue would dry up.

Since blocks of this sandstone had already been carved – ready to be put in place as the temple comes up – switching over to a lesser grade of stone would have caused problems.

The Dholpur variant is said to be no match to the Bansi Paharpur stone.

Authorities in Congress-run Rajasthan denied that the move to denotify Bansi Paharpur block in Bharatpur’s Band Baretha wildlife sanctuary has anything specific to do with the Ram temple.

But a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader approved of reports that this “technical problem” is now being sorted out.

'The Rajasthan government never created hurdles in the supply of the stone. However, there was some technical problem regarding Forest and Wildlife Act at Bansi Paharpur in Bharatpur district, which the Rajasthan government is taking steps to denotify,' senior VHP leader Triloki Nath Pandey told PTI in Ayodhya.

He said there has been cooperation from all past governments – including those of Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh—for uninterrupted supply of building material for the Ram temple.

Anubhai Sompura, an architect associated with the temple project, said one lakh cubic feet of the stone has already been stockpiled, adding that two lakh cubic feet is still needed.

According to Bharatpur district collector Nathmal Didel, initial steps have now been taken for the denotification of Bansi Paharpur block – a move which will remove its status as forestland and allow legal mining.

A preliminary survey is being done by a team of revenue, forest and mining department officials, he said.

'After the initial survey, a report will be sent to the chief wildlife warden of the forest department,” he said, adding that the recommendations will go to the Centre for approval.

He said the stone is in high demand across the country and the process has not begun because it is required for the Ram Temple.

The collector said there is rampant illegal mining in the area. There is no forest left there, and if it is delinked from the sanctuary the state government will get the revenue from any mining there.

When contacted, Rajasthan Principal Secretary, (Forest and Environment), Sreya Guha said the matter is related to the mines department, which has not yet placed it before the forest department.

She said a survey might have been done at the local level and has not yet come for clearance to her department.

Principal Secretary (Mining) Ajitabh Sharma said he would not be able to give details.

In a landmark judgment last year, the Supreme Court cleared the way for building a Ram temple at the disputed Ayodhya site where the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the temple took place in August at a ceremony led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI AG CORR ASH ASH