Sand mafia attack: Punjab forest department to arm its staff

The state government will provide financial assistance of Rs 50,000 each to the two critically hurt and Rs 21,000 each to the other injured.

punjab Updated: Jun 21, 2018 10:09 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh/Amritsar
Sadhu Singh Dharamsot,sand mafia,Punjab
Punjab forest minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot (HT File)

The Punjab forest department has decided to arm its staff after six officers were allegedly attacked by sand mining mafia on Monday.

“We have decided to provide weapons to our staff because it is impossible to guard without weapons. Those behind the Seonk village (in Mohali) incident won’t be spared,” forest minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot told reporters here on Wednesday.

The minister said four men have been arrested for the attack. The officers were attacked by five to seven assailants with sticks and sharp-edged weapons on Monday night when they intercepted a tractor-trailer. Block forest range officer Devinder Singh and forest guard Karnail Singh were admitted to PGIMER hospital. Devinder Singh’s condition was stated to be “very critical”. He suffered multiple skull fractures, doctors said. The four others escaped with minor injuries.

The minister said a proposal to provide arms to the forest department staff will be put before the state cabinet. Dharamsot said the state government will provide financial assistance of Rs 50,000 each to the two critically injured and Rs 21,000 each to the other four. The department will also honour them with bravery awards and two additional increments.

Sand mafia having a free run in state, says Sukhbir

SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal charged that the current Congress government was refusing to rein in the mafia.

Condemning the attack on forest officers, Sukhbir said it proved that the state had descended into “jungle raj”.

“The sand mafia has become so bold that it is ready to attack and even murder government officials coming in the way of its illegal operations,” the SAD president said in a statement.

He said the SAD will now approach Punjab governor VP Singh Badnore and urge him to direct the state to take action against the sand mafia.

The party will also take up the issue of environmental damage caused by illegal mining, including changes to the course of Sutlej river and erosion of cultivable land. He listed other incidents of violence in the recent past against officials trying to stop illegal mining, including an attack on mining department general manager TS Sekhon.

Badal said the clout enjoyed by the sand mafia was such that no concrete action was taken even after chief minister Amarinder Singh tweeted about illegal mining on the Sutlej riverbed after a recent helicopter survey.

First Published: Jun 20, 2018 23:07 IST