Crime syndicates who allegedly enjoy the patronage of political heavyweights control about three dozen mafias engaged in illegal mining of sand in Noida and Greater Noida, said officials and licensed contractors.
Political patronage to these gangs in Uttar Pradesh has continued under various parties. Since it is a major money spinner, initiating action against it has not been easy for the officials as seen in the case of IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal.
Mining sand in the Yamuna and Hindon became a major business activity in Noida after realtors took over the satellite town in the 1990s. Several villagers whose lands had been acquired for building multi-storey apartment complexes borrowed machinery and started supplying sand to the builders.
Those days people just had bribe the police for mining sand in Noida or Delhi-NCR, said contractors.
The boom in construction business provided a major boost to sand mining. Now, apart from extracting sand from the river banks, contractors got engaged in mining sand from construction sites where deep digging was done to build basements.
“For laying the foundation of a high-rise building, a developer needs to dig deep to make space for two to three levels of basements. In this process, lot of sand is extracted. Contractors made huge money by bidding for such sites,” said Krishna Singh of Kambakshpur village, an epicentre of sand mining along the Yamuna.
“The 15 licensed contractors and about two dozen sand mafia were running an organised racket till at least 2005-06. Respective governments and local officials were being paid bribes to carry on with the loot,” said Singh.
District officials admit that an organised mafia is engaged in illegal extraction of sand. “About three dozen sand gangs are active in the district. We will take strict action to contain sand mining,” said Sanjay Chauhan, city magistrate, Noida.
In 2007, BSP’s Babu Singh Kushwaha— who was the mining minister — was himself in the sand business in eastern UP.
Kushwaha later handed over the baton to a Noida-based realtor, who was de-throned by a Delhi-based senior Samajwadi party leader in 2012, following SP’s win in the assembly elections.
At present this senior Samajwadi party leader controls the criminal syndicate, alleged sand contractors.