The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday expressed shock and passed strictures against the Uttar Pradesh government for trying to check illegal sand mining from the Yamuna in Noida and Greater Noida in Gautam Budh Nagar district through easy short-cuts.
The tribunal told UP's additional advocate general that the government was arresting truck drivers, while letting the big fishes (mining mafia) off the hook."
The tribunal said it felt betrayed by the government's attitude and asked why the owners of these vehicles and earthmovers were not arrested.
"We are certainly unable to appreciate what was stated by the SSP and the director of mining before us on the last date of hearing. It is unfortunate that large scale mining activity and particularly illegal mining activity had been carried out in the area of Gautam Budh Nagar and nearly more than 2 lakh cubic metres of sand has been removed therefrom," the tribunal said.
"The police and the mining authority issued notices to the persons who were poor drivers of the vehicles which had carried the sand. These drivers appeared before the Tribunal on the last date of hearing after the case was over and in fact they gave the names of the owners which had not been furnished by the authorities," the tribunal said.
"We express our anguish and do not appreciate the approach that has been adopted by the authorities. Let the authorities furnish complete details and names of the owners and real persons who have been carrying on this illegal mining activity," the tribunal said.
"In the meanwhile, on the basis of the information furnished by the drivers, as to owners of the vehicles let notice be issued to the following persons.
The SSP and the Director of Mining shall produce the complete police file before the Tribunal on that date and also ensure that Notices have been served to these persons," the NGT said.
The Uttar Pradesh government had on August 29 filed a report and named 18 persons for illegal mining even after an order of the tribunal, banning all mining without requisite clearances, given on August 5.
The tribunal had ordered the district administration to issue notices to all the accused to appear and explain why they should not be punished and made to pay for damaging the river floodplain.
The Gautam Budh Nagar administration had also informed the tribunal that the police had arrested 11 persons , including owners of JCB earth-moving machines and trucks, and sent to jail in connection with the theft of 80 per cent of the illegally-mined sand, which was seized by the authorities, got stolen in Gautam Budh Nagar.
The bench had ordered all the 11 accused be produced before the tribunal on the next date of hearing.