Ask anybody in Panna about diamond mining and the response will be: “Number 2 or Number 1?” For locals, the former is illegal and the latter legal.
In the country’s only diamond producing region, situated nearly 400 km from Bhopal in northeastern Madhya Pradesh, illegal mining is rampant, with even Gond tribals, besides other locals, being involved in the trade.
Extending 240 km along the Vindhya ranges in Bundelkhand region, diamond deposits can be found in forests, farms and government land.
While the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) operates India’s only mechanised diamond mine at Majhgawan in Panna, the government or local administration leases 8X8 metre plots of private or revenue land to prospective miners in the rest of the district.
Diamond hunters dig for gravel, wash it in water and look for the sparklers in the gravel. Once a lessee finds a diamond, he or she has to deposit it at the diamond office, where all diamonds are valued and then auctioned quarterly, with state government getting a royalty of 11.5 % on the sale value. The rest goes to the lessee after deduction of taxes.
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