Raids conducted by the state Mining department to check illegal sand mining appear to be more on paper than real as reports from the districts indicate flourishing mining activity across the state.
This when this year alone the department is said to have carried out 2,767 raids in various parts of the state to rein in the sand mining mafia.
Mining department officials claimed that 39 FIRs had been registered against those indulging in the illegal mining and Rs. 7.72 crore penalty collected by the enforcement team of the department.
But there is obviously to letup in the activity of the sand mafia as district magistrates of 26 districts in letters sent to the state government have said that sand mining from the non patta (lease) area of the rivers was continuing unabated with support of the police and mining department officers.
The districts that are worst hit are Gonda, Bahraich, Sitapur, Barabanki, Chitrakoot, Banda, Jhansi, Hamirpur, Sonbhadar, Jalaun, Allahabad, Bijnore, Saharanpur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Mirzapur, Gorakhpur and Kushinagar.
“Due to the political support to the mining mafias by the ruling party MLAs and MPs, the district administration officials shy from taking action against them,” said a district magistrate told HT on condition of anonymity.
“As the sand mafia fund the political parties, the officers who dare to challenge their might are shifted or put on the waitlist. No wonder the state government transferred around 800 IAS/IPS/ PCS officers within a year,” said the officer and added, “several of these officers were shunted on the request of the mining mafias”.
According to sources, district magistrate of Gonda Roshan Jacob, who raided villages located on the bank of river Ghaghra recently, found illegal sand mining rampant in Nawabganj and Tarabganj tehsils.
She shot off a letter to the state government informing it about the role of the district mining department officers, sub-divisional magistrates, tehsildar and lekhpal in the illegal mining.
The environmental laws were also grossly violated.
No action has been taken on her findings.
When asked minister of state for mining (independent charge) Gayatrai Prasad Prajapti said the mining department had constituted a task force to check illegal sand mining.
But when HT inquired about the action taken by the task force, director mining Bhaskar Upadhyay said the task force had been mainly deputed in Gautam Buddha Nagar district in West UP and Sonbhadra district in East UP.
This gives rise to an obvious question: How illegal sand mining will be checked in remaining districts?
Bhaskar said the mining department was facing acute shortage of staff.
“At present there are only 10 mining officers and 31 inspectors to keep watch on the mining activities in the entire state. I have written to the state government to fill up the vacant posts, and the district magistrates have been told to constitute teams to check illegal sand mining,” he said.