Though Punjab and Haryana are fighting a legal battle over the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal and politicians are busy issuing statements, the reality is that most part of the canal is of no use at present as the mining mafia has dug it up at various places to make easy money.
Though it has not served any purpose for Haryana, the incomplete canal has become a money-minting venture for the Punjab mining mafia, which is digging up earth and selling it.
The 121km canal built in 1992 had cost Rs 750 crore. However, the mining mafia has dug it up at various places, especially the areas passing through remote villages.
The entire stretch of the canal from Rajpura to Ghagga is broken, as the mafia having political patronage has been removing 300 to 500 trolleys of earth from here daily. At some places, the mafia has also dug up the riverbed and the banks and created nearly 200-ft-wide breaches.
The mining has been going on unabated since 2011, but it picked pace after 2012 when the SAD-BJP again formed the government in the state.
An irrigation department official, requesting anonymity, said, “Even if Punjab has to use the canal, the brick-lining is required in majority of the portion, as owing to non-use, people have not only dug up earth, but also stolen the bricks used to construct the canal.” He claimed that the mafia paid Rs 500 per truck to the local politicians and police.
Shamsher Singh of Bathaunia village said, “Earlier, mining would go on unabated, but, now the irrigation department has taken strict measures. Thus the mafia keeps changing location from time to time by striking a deal with politicians and the administration. The places are not fixed. On any given day, they dig up up to 500 trucks and shift these to another place from where they sell it.”
The irrigation department has registered nearly two dozen FIRs in the past one year, but the police have not allegedly taken these cases to their logical end.
Irrigation secretary KS Pannu said, “Earlier, the mining mafia operated in the canal. However, since I have joined I have checked it. There may be sporadic incidents, but the department has largely checked it.” He said the department would take action against the officials under whose jurisdiction maximum mining or damage to the canal had taken place.