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The village of Sonpur is surrounded by hills. The hills are a source of pink sandstone which have been mined for more than three decades.
But in the last two years, the frequency of mining operations – which include what villagers call “blasting” and involve powerful explosions on the hill side – has increased.
The reason behind this is that two key projects of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the Ram temple in Ayodhya and the Kashi-Vishwanath project in Varanasi, will use these stones.
Last year, the first consignment of pink sandstone for the Ram temple was sent from Mirzapur to Ayodhya.
Sandstone of these mines was also used in the Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar Memorial Park in Lucknow, built by the Mayawati government.
For villagers of Sonpur, living with a layer on dust is commonplace. Every second person has a lung disease here, some with serious and painful symptoms. Due to repeated explosions, cracks have formed on the walls of every house in the village. Administration, say villagers, are apathetic.