It was a tragedy waiting to happen in Bhadkiya village. For the past two years, some of the affluent contractors of Bijalpur were allegedly engaged in illegal mining near Bhadkiya village but no one dared to open their mouth. A trench, which is around 4,000 square feet, was formed in which four children of tribal-dominated Bhadkiya village drowned.
The deceased Satish (9), Shekhar (10), Rajesh (10) and Sandeep (10) had gone for a bath when the incident took place on Wednesday.
As per the villagers of Bhadkiya, excavators were being used for illegal mining for the past two years.
"They used to transport ‘morrum’ in the night by dumper. Throughout the night three-four dumpers used to make trips to the trench. Earlier, the trench was not deep but in last four months about 1,000 trucks of illegal morrum was taken out from it," said Gabbar, the father of Rajesh (10), who drowned in the trench.
"Many times I have seen dumpers in the afternoon carrying morrum from this trench but in the night it was a routine process before rains. They used to supply it for road construction and for other usage. We don’t have the registration numbers of the dumpers but they are about a dozen," said Prahlad Patel, a resident of Mundi village, who owns a piece of land near the trench.
He further said that no one complained about illegal mining but it is the duty of the government to check it. "Who will dare to complain against the powerful people of Bijalpur?" asked Sitaram, the uncle of a child who too died on Wednesday.
"We are poor people and no one cares about us here. Everyone know who are engaged in the illegal mining they fear for their lives. They are powerful and they can do anything," said Satish, a villager.
There are about 700 Bhil residents in Bhadkiya village and most of them have not eaten a morsel since the tragedy happened. No senior police or administrative officials visited the village after the deaths except the city superintendent of police (CSP) and two politicians.
The villagers' demand is simple — fill the trench, punish the illegal miners and compensate them for their loss. But they fear to speak against the powerful contractors of the area.
There are more than a dozen townships developing in the nearby areas, and most of the residents work in these townships as labourers. They also know as to whom the morrum are supplied and who the contractor is.
"It is true that illegal mining is going on in government land and big machines are also used. We are investigating for how long this illegal mining has been going on and who all are responsible for it. Anyone found guilty will not be spared and will be booked under relevant sections of IPC," said CSP Annapura RS Ghuraiya, while talking to HT.