Rajasthan: As Ram temple is in need of a “special stone” for the construction, the government of Rajasthan has sought the approval of Government of India under the Forest and Wildlife Acts for denotifying Bansi Paharpur block of Bharatpur’s Band Baretha wildlife sanctuary to allow mining of the “unique pink sandstone.”

Desired for its unique pink shade, over 1 lakh cubic feet of Bansi Paharpur sandstone has already been sourced as the “exclusive material” for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya where stockpiling began soon after the shilanyas in 1989, Indian Express reported.

The report said that despite no allowance of mining on paper after 2016, “illegal operations” continued and the Bansi Paharpur sandstone remained available in the grey market.

Since the Bharatpur administration seized 25 trucks loaded with illegally mined pink sandstone in Bansi Paharpur on September 7, the supply has apparently “dried up”.

Functionaries of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Ayodhya, following the raid, warned against “blocking the supply” of pink sandstone.

“We wanted the Congress government in Rajasthan to understand that building the temple is the nation’s work. A solution has been found every time an obstruction came in its way. We will welcome any move to legalise the Bansi Paharpur mines,” Sharad Sharma, VHP’s regional spokesperson in Ayodhya was quoted as saying.

In a communication marked “most urgent” on October 23, Rajasthan’s joint secretary (mines) O P Kasera has asked the Director Mines, to apply for denotifying the Bansi Paharpur block on the Ministry’s Parivesh portal as a matter of “highest priority”.

When asked if the mines were being legalised to facilitate the supply of pink sandstone to Ayodhya, the report quoted Bharatpur District Magistrate Nathmal Didel saying: “There is nothing in writing on supplying stone for any particular” purpose. “This stone is in high demand all over the country, and the decision has been taken after a joint survey by the revenue, mines and forest departments.”

The groundwork is at the final stage in Bharatpur. Quoting P S Meena, superintending mining engineer in charge of Bharatpur circle, the report said that a joint survey of the 556 hectares in question with the forest department has been conducted and are in the process of filing the application for denotification.

While the 199-sq-km Band Baretha wildlife sanctuary was notified in 1985, sandstone mines have been operational in the area since the 1960s.

“Illegal mining has been rampant as our pink sandstone fetches more — Rs 500 per cubic feet — than the red sandstone of Dholpur. Be it the elephant statues all over Uttar Pradesh or the Ram temple, this is the stone in demand,” Dilip Singh Rathore told The Indian Express, who claimed he owns the only “legal mine which was forced to shut down in 2016 due to the ban.”

“Between 40% and 45% of carving work for the ground floor is complete. We have already sourced around 1.1 lakh cubic feet of an estimated 3.5-4 lakh cubic feet of sandstone that the temple will require after the expansion in its plan,” the report quoted VHP’s Sharma as saying.

The report quoted Ashish Sompura, one of the architects who have designed the temple, saying that Bansi Paharpur is the king of sandstone. So mixing this with other varieties with red dots and lines is not aesthetically feasible. If there is not enough supply, the only option is to switch to a different stone altogether.

Commenting on the issue, Nripendra Mishra, the chairman of the Ram temple construction committee, said that “the issue of supply of sandstone from Rajasthan has not come up before the panel.”

 

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