A granite quarry and crusher facility has bared the divide between the politically connected and the ordinary, allegedly cracked open the walls of houses nearby and is fast changing the landscape from a verdant green to an angry red at Peruvayal village in Kunnamangalam.
But mistake not. Chaliyar Granite Private Ltd. is a licensed outfit. Their papers say so. Moosa Moulavi, a partner, introduces himself as a “social worker and general convener of the Indian Union Muslim League’s Kunnamangalam Assembly constituency committee”. He says the quarry is run by a few workers from the neighbourhood. It is a livelihood for us, he insists.
Mr. Moulavi invites The Hindu into a small office opposite the crusher unit up a winding narrow road atop the Pallikadavu hill with a panoramic sight of the Chaliyar glistening in the evening sun.
In the dust-laden atmosphere, a few trucks have queued up for their daily load of quarried granite, in various forms from gravel to blocks. Somewhere in the slopes of the hill, metallic thuds of an excavator punching the rock face of the hill fills the air.
Mr. Moulavi does not for a moment hesitate to produce the documents giving him the right to dig the hill. The licences are handed over to this correspondent. The factory licence, the explosives licence, environment certificate, and the no objection certificate from the panchayat — all of them.
“We have nothing to hide. What we are doing is totally legal,” he said. His certificate under the Kerala Minor Minerals Concession Rules, 1967, gives him permission to quarry two plots measuring 24 cents each on the hill. “We bought 15 acres here. The crusher does not require all that land. But we bought it anyway so that the local people are not disturbed by our work… We are all residents of this area,” he said.
He pouts when told about the cracks on people’s homes. “Their houses are over 100 metres from this quarry. Look at my office, there is no crack on my walls,” he reasoned.
Khadeeja Puthukadi, who lives on the steep slope leading to the quarry, hardly agrees with Mr. Moulavi. Her front yard is cracked, so are her walls. She says the earth trembles when explosives are detonated. “But we are poor. There is no one to talk for us,” she said.
Her neighbour, Rekha Rajesh, a young widow who lives with her two children, has just moved into a small concrete house from a tin-roofed shed.
“Her husband died in an accident last year. We pooled money to build a house for her. Now she is scared that jerks from the quarry may damage her new house,” T.C. Ali, a local madrasa teacher and neighbour, said.
“I am afraid when the children go out to play. Recently, rocks fell down the slope from above minutes after the children had come in. When we asked the quarry people, they said there was a mistake in the explosives used. We live in fear. There is no place to go,” Ms. Rajesh said.
But Pathumma, in her eighties, has decided to sell her home of 20 years and leave the place. “Every time the earth shakes, I rush inside,” she said, pointing to the crack in her kitchen wall.No talks
“Two months ago we invited the quarry owners for a discussion on this issue. The invitation was signed by 112 signatories from 60 families affected by the quarry. They told us the work cannot stop,” K.C. Mohammed, chairman, Paristhithi Samrakshana Samithi, Pallikadavu, said.
He passes on a Right to Information reply he received on December 29, 2013, from the local panchayat to his queries on the quarry. The reply reveals why the quarry owners have not bothered to negotiate with the local people.
The panchayat, in its reply, says that Chaliyar Granite Private Ltd. has licence to operate the quarry and the crusher till March 2014. “The cracks on the residents’ walls are not caused from the quarry’s operations. The panchayat secretary who visited the spot has also reported that the quarry is not responsible for the damage. Everything is legal,” Asmabi P., Peruvayal panchayat president, said.Counter argument
Besides, she says that the people who are complaining of the quarry live within the Coastal Regulatory Zone on the banks of the Chaliyar. “They might have built houses without submitting the building plans to the panchayat,” she said.
“Every day, 30 vehicle loads of material are sent out from this quarry. The quarry’s boundaries are not marked. Again, is there any mechanism to check if the quarrying is not done indiscriminately? Why are new houses in the area developing cracks? ” P.K.M Chekku, secretary, Chaliyar Samara Samithi, asked.
But Mr. Moulavi says the protests are led by a few who have personal scores to settle. “We are open to any independent inquiry by the government on this issue,” he said.