The Rajasthan government will soon begin an online auction of a special pink sandstone variety, much sought after by builders including those constructing the Ram temple in Ayodhya, found in the Bansi Paharpur area of Bharatpur. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Monday said the sandstone was being sent for temple construction after illegal mining so the state government made efforts to get the stone mining a legal status from the Centre.
In a series of tweets, Gehlot raised questions over financial manipulation in temple construction work. "Devotees across the country are deeply hurt by the immoral activities of financial manipulation done by the trust formed for the construction of the temple. No one could have imagined that even in a holy work like temple construction, people would start committing scams," Gehlot tweeted in Hindi.
He said the people of Rajasthan have contributed with full faith for the construction of Ram temple, but the news of embezzlement of donations given for the construction work has shaken the faith of the common man. The chief minister sought a probe in the matter so that people do not lose their faith.
A state government official said putting the mining blocks on auction became possible after the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment gave an in-principle approval for converting 398 hectares of Bandh Baretha Wildlife Sanctuary land for mining sandstone.
About 70 mining blocks will be developed in the area soon for mining of the pink sandstone which is expected to generate a revenue of Rs 500 crore for the state government, Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) Mines and Petroleum Subodh Agrawal said.
It would enable legal mining in the area and sandstone would be made available for Ram temple in Ayodhya through legal channels, he said. Mining was officially banned in the area in 2016 but illegal operations continued and the Bansi Paharpur's pink sandstone was available in the grey market.
The special pink sandstone is much sought after by builders, including those constructing the Ram temple in Ayodhya. The Dholpur variant of the stone is said to be no match to the Bansi Paharpur stone.
Agrawal said due to the tireless efforts of the chief minister, Bansi Paharpur mining area has been marked out of Wildlife Sanctuary area in March last year.
He said the permission for diversion of 398 hectare area of Bansi Paharpur area was issued by the Union Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate on June 11.
The ACS said with the commencement of legal mining activities in this area, thousands of people will get direct and indirect employment. At the state level, the proposal to allow the mining special sandstone was cleared by a standing committee of the Rajasthan Wildlife Board in February.
Authorities in the Congress-run Rajasthan had then denied that the move had anything to do with the Ram temple specifically. But Vishva Hindu Parishad leader in Ayodhya Triloki Nath Pandey had approved of reports that this ''technical problem'' is now being sorted out.
Thousands of tonnes of the pink sandstone mined in Bansi Paharpur had been sourced for the temple over the years, but much more was needed, he had said.
There were concerns in Ayodhya that supplies of this stone with a unique pink hue would dry up. The supply of the stone took a hit after the Bharatpur administration seized 25 trucks loaded with illegally mined pink sandstone last September.