Taking suo motu notice of a letter addressed by members of the Youth Congress, Phillaur, seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into illegal mining in Punjab, the Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday pulled up the state authorities for letting illegal mining go unchecked.
The division bench headed by acting chief justice Jasbir Singh said, "What is this going on? Hundreds of trucks are moving with illegal sand, as per newspaper reports. How is illegal mining going on without check? Are you sleeping?"
Since illegal mining cases were being heard by another bench of the high court, the acting chief justice referred the case to the bench headed by justice Rajive Bhalla for hearing.
Bet area targeted
The letter addressed by Paramjeet Singh Mohi and four others to the acting chief justice mentioned that smuggling of sand amounting to Rs. 1 crore daily was going on along the Bet area of the Sutlej river. The complainants have mentioned the villages of Sidhwan Bet, Kotman, Bhundri and Madhopura, falling under the jurisdiction of senior superintendents of police (SSPs) of Jagraon and Ludhiana.
The petitioners have also attached news reports by Hindustan Times on illegal mining in the state and threats to whistleblowers, including 'Whistleblower fears for life, awaits security' (April 15).
It has been alleged that all illegal mining activities are going on in connivance with deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, revenue minister Bikramjit Singh Majithia and Dakha MLA Manpreet Singh Ayali.
The court was informed that in Rupnagar district alone, there were more than 100 stone crushers which were illegal because these are operating within a radius of less than 500 metres from the khud area (riverbed).
It has been alleged that these stone crushers are owned by big politicians and police officers. "One of them is an IG (inspector general) of the Punjab police, BK Garg, an IPS officer, who earns more than Rs. 1 lakh daily from this crusher," reads the letter.
The complainants have also mentioned Noni Mann, son of former MP Zora Singh Mann, for his involvement in illegal mining activities.
Rs 10,000-cr business
It has also been alleged that the total value of smuggled sand and stone (gravel) is more than Rs. 10,000 crore per year in the districts of Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Rupnagar, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Moga, Kapurthala, Jagraon and SAS Nagar. Annual illegal mining activity in Ludhiana district is to the tune of Rs. 1,500 crore, the petitioners said.
The complainants have submitted that during the daytime, legalised mining of sand and stone is done in very small quantities from official sites, but at night, illegal mining is done in huge quantities with the help of big machines and more than 500 big trucks are filled with illegal sand in one night.