New Delhi: Holding Uttarakhand government responsible for Swami Nigamanand’s death, who died because of fasting, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday said the state government has demonstrated a continued reluctance to take action against illegal mining.

“I think, we will have no option but to invoke Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act and take action on our own," the Minister said reacting to a volley of questions about the death of Swami.

Swami Nigamanand of Maitri Sadan died after a record 114 day long hunger strike yesterday demanding immediate stopping of quarrying in Ganga and alleged corruption in the government's system with active involvement of the mafia.

Recalling a letter he had sent to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal "Nishank" on January 6, last year, asking him to take steps to end illegal sand mining in the stretches of river  Ganga at Haridwar, Ramesh said, "unfortunately, no action was being taken by the state government against the accused over the last 15 months or 16 months."

"I am extremely sorry that the swami who was on fast has died... should not have happened. I have myself been to Maitri sadan twice and I have spoken to the chief minister on a number of occasions that illegal mining is rampant in Uttarakhand... that illegal mining enjoys political patronage at the highest level. Please take actions. But no action has been so far ," the Minister said.

In his letter, Ramesh had raised concerns over the deteriorating quality of water of River Ganga due to illegal mining in the stretches at Haridwar and also expressed anguish over the fast unto death protest by seers on the issue of illegal mining.

Ramesh said he had requested Pokhriyal to carry out action against the mining mafia in the state particularly in Haridwar according to law which he is empowered to do so.

The Minister said on December 9, 2009, he had sent a team of officers from the Ministry to investigate the issue of illegal mining around Haridwar and given Pokhriyal a copy of the report which was prepared by them and invited his attention to the conclusions of the report.

"According to law, minor minerals come under the jurisdiction of the state government while major minerals come uner the jurisdiction of the Central Government," he said.

Agencies