IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal is not the only one Greater Noida’s sand mafia is after. Ashish Kumar, the district mining officer who was helping Nagpal in her drive against illegal mining, survived three attempts on his life before being transferred to UP’s Bulandshahr on July 25, two days before Nagpal was suspended.
The last attack on the 41-year-old mining inspector came on February 9. He, along with two guards, had gone to stop illegal sand mining along the Yamuna Expressway early evening. The miners fled, and Kumar seized two tractors.
Just as he entered Greater Noida on his way back, a mob of more than 10 men armed with country-made pistols attacked his car. He returned fire from his licenced private revolver. The attackers fled, but took the two tractors along with them. The police lodged FIR against 20 people, of which only four were sent to jail.
Kumar had been fired at twice in 2012 in similar movie-style ambushes.
A month ago, even Nagpal was attacked by the sand mafia at the local Kasna police station. “Her two security guards had to fire several rounds to chase away the armed goons,” said a police officer requesting anonymity because he fears being victimised by the same government.
In spite of close escapes, he continued his fight against the sand mafia and worked closely with his boss Nagpal till July 25, when the UP government transferred him as Bulandshahr district mining officer.
“Kumar was transferred only because he served his term here for about two years,” said Anju Lata city magistrate of Greater Noida, refuting allegations that the sand mafia was behind his transfer.
HT repeatedly tried to contact Kumar, but he was unavailable for comment.
“Ashish had led dozens of operations against the sand mafia. He was proactively containing illegal mining, which did not go down well with SP leaders, who shunted him on July 25,” said Akash Vashishtha of Hindustan Environment Group, which has filed a petition in the national green tribunal to save the Yamuna. “It’s a shame that this government has no respect for ecology and rivers, which are being stripped by sand mining.”
A district official, requesting anonymity, confirmed the two attacks on Kumar in 2012. “He was fighting a lone battle against the powerful sand mafia before Durga joined as sub-divisional magistrate in Greater Noida in September 2012. Together, they intensified drives against sand mafia,” he said.
Officials said that on July 24, he had an altercation with a sand miner and the UP government transferred him on July 25, just two days before Nagpal was lured into the demolition trap by SP leader Narendra Bhati.
“This government does not like honest officers like Kumar and Nagpal because they implement the law of the land,” said Dhirendra Singh spokesperson of UP state Congress.
For the last seven days, the post of the mining inspector is vacant.
“The government’s revenue department looks after transfer and posting. They will take a call on the new mining inspector,” said Sanjay Chauhan, city magistrate, Noida, who has taken over Nagpal’s role.