On the eve of their indefinite strike, small-time quarry and crusher operators say they are a ‘harassed’ lot. Environmentalists do not totally disagree.

Though green activists say the operations of small-time quarries and crusher units in the district are not properly monitored, they add that for the sake of “sustainable development” these units should continue in a controlled fashion in select areas under careful monitoring by specialised government agencies.

“It is true they are harassed. But there is no proper monitoring of their activities. It is also true that these people are not strictly following the mining laws. They encroach on private land and reserve forests. They use explosives more powerful than what they have licence for. But they operate in zone 3 areas of the district unlike the big mining companies which eat up zone 1 and 2 areas,” A. Achuthan, chairperson of the Western Ghats Protection and Co-ordination Committee, says.

“Nothing is being done against the big mining companies. There is no inspection even,” Mr. Achuthan says.

M.A. Johnson, a leading environmental activist here, however does not agree completely. He says for the common man, the small-time operators are as much a menace as the big companies.

“Even where mining is done after getting licences, it is a disaster for the local people. Wells dry up, there is severe drinking water shortage, the green cover is destroyed, and indiscriminate usage of powerful explosives and encroachment into private land pose grave threats to the daily lives of people. The place, in short, becomes uninhabitable,” says Mr. Johnson, who terms the strike as mere “pressure tactics” by the quarry lobbies.

On Saturday, the small-time quarry and crusher owners operating in the district extended their support to an indefinite strike organised State-wide by their counterparts from February 17, alleging that the government was choking their activities to pave the way for multinational companies.

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