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Where rains bring down diamonds

Mainpur (Chhattisgarh), Oct 25 (IANS) When the monsoon sweeps past a diamond-rich village in Chhattisgarh, poor people in the neighbouring areas sieve the soil for precious stones and sell them to middlemen for peanuts.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006 | 8:31:35 AM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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Mainpur (Chhattisgarh), Oct 25 (IANS) When the monsoon sweeps past a diamond-rich village in Chhattisgarh, poor people in the neighbouring areas sieve the soil for precious stones and sell them to middlemen for peanuts.

Members of the Bhunjia tribe toil hard in their fields to collect diamond particles and diamond-rich kimberlite pipes that wash down from Pailikhand village in Mainpur block, 145 km southeast of Raipur in central India, unaware they are smuggling mineral deposits out of the state.

'We normally get some diamond stones or kimberlite rocks in our fields once a week but in the post-monsoon period we get really lucky,' said Sukhia Bai, 58.

Another villager, Bhola Netam, said: 'As soon as we get the diamonds, we start searching for merchants from Mumbai and Gujarat who come here often and pay Rs.100 or more.'

However, the state is planning to end the mass illegal mining of diamonds and their sale at a throwaway price.

Chief Minister Raman Singh said: 'Normally after monsoons, diamond particles flood tribal farmlands in Mainpur and Devbhog areas. We have reports that rare diamonds are leaving the state through illegal mining by innocent locals.

'The government is working on a plan to set up purchase centres in the Devbhog and Mainpur areas and pay a deserving price to tribals who dig out the diamonds,' Raman Singh told IANS.

Diamond firm B. Vijay Kumar Chhattisgarh Exploration Pvt Ltd (BVCE) got a diamond-prospecting license for 4,600 sq km in Mainpur and Devbhog in January 2000.

The next January, BVCE's licence was cancelled for not 'maintaining transparency in survey'.

BVCE has moved the Chhattisgarh high court to seek cancellation of the order. But the government has fenced in the diamond location in Pailikhand and deployed armed forces to guard the area.

With the matter in court and mining banned in the area, illegal digging continues. In fact, it has been going on since 1990 when a local farmer got an unpolished huge diamond piece during cultivation.

Since 1990, police has been regularly seizing unpolished diamonds from Gujarat and Mumbai traders who purchase them from the Bhunjia tribes.

Copyright : Indo-Asian News Service
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