Even as the Punjab government's special investigation team (SIT) continues its search for illegal mining mafia on the orders of the Punjab and Haryana high court for more than a year now, plunder of natural resources continues unabated in the Shivalik foothills and riverbeds in Mohali and Rupnagar districts.
The scenic landscapes of Khizrabad, Mianpur Changar and Tarapur villages in Mohali have become a haven for mafia that has even installed stone-crushers in the area. From here, tipper-trucks loaded with sand and gravel go unchecked right up to the Rupnagar-Anandpur Sahib highway for different destinations in half an hour's time.
The marshy tracks and ruined link roads remain markers of inaction by the local administration and the police.
"Even our meetings with ministers and the chief minister have not yielded any result, except that our fields are now left out (of the plunder)," said Swarn Singh, a panchayat member of Mianpur Changar. This Mohali village alone has about 500 acres of the forestry common panchayat land under the category of forest or riverbed.
Kharar sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Sukhjitpal Singh had a few months ago prepared a detailed report on mining activities in the entire 'changar' (forest) area, highlighting the presence of at least 17 stone-crushers in the area. Action is still awaited even as the report was forwarded to the state industry department through the deputy commissioner's office.
Mohali district general manager, mining, Chaman Lal, when contacted, said he had joined office only this week and was yet to take stock. "You tell me where the illegal mining is taking place. I will surely take action," he told HT.
The forest department, on the other hand, has no record of such mining. "No crusher or screening plant exists in the area that is under our jurisdiction in the district," said district forest officer Tajinder Singh.
ACCOUNT OF ILLEGAL CRUSHERS
There are around 150 illegal crushers in Rupnagar and Mohali districts, as per documents of the industry department; 96 of these in Rupnagar alone. The HT team on Friday counted at least 20 illegal crushers in the Khizrabad area under Majri block of Mohali.
Information under the RTI Act revealed that 122 stone-crushers are registered in Rupnagar; none in Mohali. As many as 29 crusher-owners await registration in Rupnagar. Some of these unregistered crushers are run illegally in the night.
A POINTLESS CHECKPOINT
A Punjab Home Guards cop and a mining wing guard stood at a naka (checkpoint) as trucks carrying sand and gravel from a nearby rivulet of the Sutlej and the Khanopur Khuhi hillocks passed by after showing a "receipt" to the mining guard. Water leaking from the trucks indicated that it was fresh stock of sand from the riverbed.
When confronted, the guard showed the receipt to the HT team, saying he did not know that 'Dashmesh Stone Crusher', who had issued the receipt, was registered or not. It was only after the HT team called up senior mining officials and the sub-inspector in charge of the Kalwan (Rupangar) police post that three trucks were impounded and cases registered.
The mining guard on the spot said he had been deputed there for the past 10 days, and asked to only have a look at the "consignment receipts". He was not given any list of registered crushers.
Tomorrow: Ravaging the riverbed