For a state so well endowed with minerals, it was only a matter of time before those who wielded power realised its potential as a moneyspinner. That 'emoney-spinner' has now become an industry, an empire.
Whether it is sand in Bhind, Morena, Khargone, Khandwa and Hoshangabad, iron ore, bauxite and marble in Katni and sandstone in Vidisha, Sagar and Shivpuri - illegal mining has now overtaken legal mining in terms of volume and earnings.
The state might have earned more than Rs. 3,000 crore in royalty from mining in 2011-12 as per government records, and has lost almost double that amount to illegal mining.
HT travelled across the state to investigate into illegal mining and what it witnessed was shocking: Some of the biggest names in Madhya Pradesh politics (cutting across party lines) have their fingers in the mining pie; at the enduser's corner are some big industrial houses of the country; illegal mining gives employment to a large number of young people in small towns and villages across the state; several other businesses like sale and purchase of loaders, tractors and dumpers thrive on it.
The worst affected areas in the state are the Katni-Sehora belt, the Gwalior-Morena-Shivpuri region, the Narmada belt and the districts of Baghelkhand including Rewa and Satna.
While in Katni, a politician said to be close to the opposition party controls the mining business, in Hoshangabad, Sehore and and Raisen the sand mining business reportedly has deep links with the ruling party.
In Morena, it is a free-for-all in the sand mining racket - with local musclemen supported by politicians of all hues. In Gwalior-Shivpuri belt, the sandstone mining empire is under the control of a former state minister.
A damning report on illegal mining in Satna district and an income tax search in June this year revealed the way mines were allotted to BJP office bearer Sudhir Sharma, who in a span of six years became a 'mining baron' from a teacher.
The state government is not serious about bringing in technology or reforms in mining laws to plug the leakages. Satellitebased technology for tracking mining operations is being resisted by individuals both within and outside the government who stand to lose from it.