Gorelal Tamrakar, 59
Filed cases against illegal mining in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh; Faced death threats from the mining mafia and lost his job when his brother-in-law's legal mine was forced to shutdown; Approached principal chief conservator of forests in Bhopal, who probed issue, filed a report, on which action was taken.
I became a whistleblower when illegal mining in Satna district started affecting my bread and butter. I work as a clerk at my brother-in-law, Ramprasad Tamrakar's stone slab mine. Last year, we found out that the mining department issued notice to a legal mine owner to deposit R90,000 against royalties and dues. I told myself that if illegal mining continued, our mine would also be affected and we wouldn't be able to pay 'royalties' and other 'taxes'. When nobody listened to my complaints for over six months in the mining department and collectorate offices, I went to Bhopal where I met the principal chief conservator of forests, Jagdish Prasad Sharma. Sharma was a straightforward officer. He visited the area without informing the forest department and did an undercover probe. His report exposed massive illegal mining in the two forest ranges. The officer did not mince words in exposing the nexus between illegal miners and the forest department.
After I lodged complaints to the mining department, I received many threats from the mining mafia that they would bump me off any day and my family would not even be able to trace my body. I lodged a named complaint too with the local police but to no avail. The result was that my brother-in-law's legally operating mine was closed after an order of the then district collector who declared Parasmania plateau a stone mining-free zone. What an irony that legal mines were closed because of my complaint against illegal mining, which continues. However, the media raised a lot of hue and cry after Sharma's report and illegal mining was greatly affected. The police lodged an FIR against about a dozen illegal miners including a nephew of PWD minister Nagendra Singh.
The government was forced to institute an inquiry. Several forest officials were found guilty of promoting illegal mining. But despite the adverse report, only a few were taken to task. An SDO who was shifted to Bhopal managed to return to Satna after 10 days. My brother-in-law has now filed a petition in the High Court for a ban on illegal mining and restoration of his mine.
Meanwhile, I continue to struggle. I have a wife, three sons and a daughter. With no work, our very existence is threatened. My family continues to live in fear. Due to the death threats I have stopped going to hilly areas. If they catch me in Satna or Maihar, they would not spare me. Security would be too expensive and cumbersome for me to afford. With a meagre source of income I cannot afford conveyance and food for security personnel. I cannot accommodate them in my small house. That's why I have left my security in the hands of God.
Whenever I hear news that a whistleblower has been killed my apprehension only grows that I might be killed any day. They are not going to spare me. But still my belief is firm.