Tribune News Service
Ropar, June 28
With the mining mafia digging out sand and stone near the pillars of two bridges on the Sutlej, these are in danger of collapsing. A slab of the bridge near Chandpur Bela village built by Sant Labh Singh of Kila Anandgarh has started sinking, and sand around pillars of another bridge on Anandpur Sahib-Garhshankar road is eroding fast.
Ironically, the area falls in Anandpur Sahib assembly constituency, represented by BJP senior leader and state mining minister MM Mittal.
The illegal mining mafia is well organised and goons collect ‘goonda tax’ to the tune of lakhs of rupees every day from hundreds of tipper drivers. “After sunset, dozens of JCB machines begin digging the river bed on both sides of the bridge in Saidpur village,” said Rulda Singh, a local resident, who grazes his cattle near the river bed.
He said earlier the mafia used to dig a little far from the bridge, but finding no resistance from locals, the police or the mining department officials, they had become more aggressive. Rulda said with a big crater being dug near the bridge downstream, the sand under the bridge had started gathering in the crater. This had exposed made the foundation of the pillars weak, he said.
A few kilometres away, Sant Labh Singh, known as Pullanwala Baba, some years ago constructed a bridge near Chandpur Bela connecting several villages with Kiratpur Sahib. Again, the illegal mining near the bridge has weakened its foundations and a slab has already started sinking. This has made the bridge surface uneven.
Senior officials in the PWD Department said the bridges might collapse if mining near the bridges wasn’t stopped. A senior PWD official on condition of anonymity said he had raised the issue repeatedly at high-level meetings, but in vain.
Goons have set up kiosks on both sides of the bridge at Saidpur village to collect ‘goonda tax’. When the TNS team reached one of the kiosks, a guard said he was to collect royalty (payment against mining from an auctioned quarry). No quarry has been auctioned in the area.
A tractor-trolley driver present nearby said each tipper driver had to shell out at least Rs 2,800 as ‘goonda’ tax and nearly 200 tippers arrived here every day. Five policemen posted for the protection of the bridge confirmed that illegal mining was rampant near the bridge.
With the district police and the civil administration not taking steps to stop the illegal mining, politicians openly patronise the mining mafia.
Last month, a mining officer during the monthly review meeting of the district administration admitted that he could not take action against the mining mafia due to pressure from a minister.
Ropar Additional Deputy Commissioner Karnesh Sharma denied the officials were lax in checking illegal mining. He said ten police cases were registered against the offenders. Ropar SSP Varinder Paul Singh feigned ignorance about illegal mining. Mining minister Madan Mohan Mittal could not be contacted.
Earlier attempts to stop illegal mining were thwarted
- In December 2013, the police seized vehicles and machinery, allegedly belonging to a BJP leader and an SGPC member
- The then SSP Ravcharan Brar booked the offenders
- The accused then approached Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal
- Brar was transferred two months later
- On October 6, last year, the Forest Department officials seized ten tippers involved in illegal mining in Chamkaur Sahib area
- Though an FIR was registered, the BJP minister reprimanded the officials
- Therafter, no tipper was seized from the area
- A slab of the bridge near Chandpur Bela village built by Sant Labh Singh of Kila Anandgarh has started sinking
- Sand around pillars of another bridge on Anandpur Sahib-Garhshankar road is eroding fast
- Senior officials in the PWD Department say the bridges may collapse if mining near the bridges isn’t stopped
- The foundations of the bridges are getting weak
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