The National Green Tribunal on Thursday asked the Uttar Pradesh government to submit a report on a case of sand theft reported by Hindustan Times.
HT had earlier this week reported that nearly 80% of the illegal sand seized by suspended sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Durga Shakti Nagpal has been stolen in the last one week. The stolen sand - auctioned for Rs. 8 crore to Omendra Khari, a close associate of SP leader and UP minister Narendra Singh Bhati on July 10 but never picked up - was seized after numerous drives against sand mining mafia in the Gautam Budh Nagar district.
A senior official of the mining department of the UP government admitted in the tribunal, “Yes, it's correct. We have filed two FIRs on August 13 and 14.”
The tribunal asked the senior superintendent of police of Gautam Budh Nagar, who was personally present in the tribunal, “Can you tell us what investigation you have done. Fifteen days have gone by. Such a huge quantity of sand (2,00,777 cubic meter) cannot be kept in a locker. It must be in the markets. You will be personally responsible for the investigation.”
Later the SSP informed the tribunal, “In 2013, 9 FIRs have been lodged by the mining department. The police have lodged 84 cases, arrested 120 persons and seized 87 dumpers, 28 trolleys and 3000 tonnes of material.”
This didn’t please the tribunal. “What policy decisions you have taken to check illegal sand mining? Have you started night patrolling? Issue a notice to all those who have violated the August 5 order of this tribunal, asking them to explain they shouldn’t be punished and made to pay compensation for damaging the riverbed. They should also explain why they should not restore the damage caused,” the tribunal said.
“All states, including UP, will formulate a unified policy to check illegal sand mining. The union ministry of environment and forests will provide guidelines. The UP government will place a comprehensive report on the sand theft case.,” the tribunal said.
The tribunal had earlier asked the Uttar Pradesh government to show by August 29 definitive results in checking illegal sand mining or government officials “will have a tough time.”
The tribunal had on August 14 asked the two to explain why they should not face action for failing to check illegalsand mining from the Yamuna river in Noida and Greater Noida.
The order had come a fortnight after the UP government suspended Durga Shakti Nagpal, a sub-divisional magistrate in Gautam Budh Nagar district. The action led to a major controversy because the young IAS officer had taken on illegal sand mining business.
The NGT had on August 5 banned sand mining from rivers across states without requisite approvals. The Supreme Court had last year passed a similar order.