Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, September 1
The sand mafia has now started targeting common village ponds and is not even sparing private lands for illegal excavation of sand.
The mafia has been unable to carry out its practice of illegal digging of sand from the shallow bed of the Sutlej river due to the release of more water in it, triggered by heavy rain in Himachal Pradesh.
The excavation of sand from shallow beds or from the banks of the Sutlej by the sand mafia is not new, especially with regard to the stretch of the river falling in Kapurthala and Jalandhar districts.
But the mafia had almost run out of illegal business for quite some time now due to the overflowing river.
So its members have set their eyes on common village ponds and have even convinced farmers to allow them to dig sand from their lands way beyond the permissible limit of 4 ft.
To avoid detection, they transport sand from trenches with the help of tractor-trailers or tippers after removing their number plates. Instead of mining in broad daylight, the sand mafia now operates during night.
The growl of their heavy machinery like JCBs and tippers, according to the residents of some Doaba villages, could be heard piercing the calm of the nights.
“Members of the sand mafia now descend on Shahkot area villages in the night. They continued to dig for sand till the depth of 50 ft from a common village pond at Gehlran village for about a fortnight and till village women protested against their activities. The deep digging has put the homes of some villagers and the road in the periphery in peril as these could cave in anytime during heavy rain,” alleged Tarsem Peter, state president of the Pendu Mazdoor Union.
He said complaints to the local revenue authorities and the police did not yield any results.
Banso, a resident of Gehlran village, was upset over the disturbing of the pond, the village’s lifeline. “We don’t know who allows sand miners to pollute the pond of a village? Our complaints have gone unheard,” she rued.
Similarly, another pond at Bajwan Khurd village was dug by the sand mafia for up to 25 ft. “We have no one to complain to. The authorities hardly listen to us when it comes to the activities of the sand mafia,” Peter alleged. He said the police action, if any, has only been limited to seizing sand and not the heavy machinery like tractor, trailers, JCBs and tippers.
A tract of forest land at Raipur Gujjran and another tract of private land at Daria Wale Bille were also subjected to sand mining.
“No one indulging in illegal sand mining will be spared. I have already directed our officials to keep a watch on the activities of the sand mafia during day and night,” said Ishwar Chander, Inspector General (Jalandhar zone).
Sources in the police department said that at least five FIRs were lodged against members of the sand mafia under various Sections of the Mining Act at Mehatpur police station on a single day during the past week.
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