Notwithstanding the model code of conduct for elections, hundreds booked for illegal mining thronged the Rupnagar district Police Lines, carrying the hopes that the cases against them would be cancelled.
On Thursday, the police of Rupnagar, SAS Nagar, Ludhiana and Nawanshahr districts had called them to the venue with copies of the first-information reports (FIRs) and other documents for the possibility of the withdrawal of cases. The aggrieved people, mainly the villagers, waited to appear before the cops and the special investigation team (SIT) that was formed more than a year ago to know how the mining mafia worked.
Inspector general of police Nirmal Singh Dhillon, who heads the SIT, held the public hearing of some cases but half the 1,000-crowd was left out, since the IG gave the crowd just an hour.
“We are here as a part of the SIT, investigating the (illegal mining) cases (under the high court orders),” said the IG.
“I cannot say more,” he replied, when asked why the people had been called and assured that the cases would be cancelled, when the election code was on.
Dhillon said his purpose of being there was to investigate the cases. In the past three years, police lodged 178 cases of illegal mining at Nurpur Bedi against 159 people, of which 100 were at the venue. “We were asked to send them to the hearing. That is all we know,” said Nurpur Bedi station house officer Daljit Singh.
Darshan Singh, who operates two tippers to haul sand and gravel, came with the hope that charge registered last month would be off him.
“I was carrying raw material from Himachal Pradesh with valid documents and was pulled over for overtaking; but then the police seized the bills and made a case under the mining Act,” said the man.”I never got the bills back, and there is mention of those in the FIR” he added.
Another villager was booked for extracting sand from his land on the Sutlej banks near Macchhiwara in Ludhiana district.
“Outsiders were plundering my field in the dark. I got a call from police to be here but now I am told nothing can happen, as the challan has been filed,” he said.
The crusher owners in the crowd also returned emptyhanded. One told the IG that mining officials’ were facilitating the “royalty” (extortion money) collectors and not regulating the system.
Rupnagar SSP Gurpreet Singh Toor was tightlipped about the purpose of the gathering. “I was not even present,” he said.