Illegal mining along the banks of rivers in Uttarakhand is a major challenge facing the new government.(HT File)
Illegal mining along the banks of rivers in Uttarakhand is a major challenge facing the new government.(HT File)

Mining mafia mows down forester, govt suspends three officers

The forest department on Saturday suspended three senior officers, after an operation went horribly wrong during which the mining mafia mowed down a beat watcher near the banks of Kosi in Ramnagar.
By Abhinav Madhwal | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON MAR 25, 2017 08:41 PM IST

Haldwani : The forest department on Saturday suspended three senior officers, after an operation went horribly wrong during which the mining mafia mowed down a beat watcher near the banks of Kosi in Ramnagar.

In another incident on Friday, the Barhaini range near Kaladhungi saw confrontation between mining mafia and forest officials near Baur river. A forest team led by Barhaini beat officer Mayank Kumar was fired upon by mining mafia, prompting the team to retaliate. This was the nineteenth instance of attack on forest employees by the quarrying mafia in last six years.

The brazen killing is the first major test for the new Trivendra Singh Rawat-led BJP government. The opposition Congress was quick to latch on the episode, alleging that a BJP minister was hand in glove with the mining mafia.

Rawat condemned the incident and directed the police to take the necessary measures in order to bring the mining mafia to justice. He announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh for the bereaved family.

Pehelwan Singh, 47, from Bannakheda, Bajpur was crushed to death by a tractor trolley on Friday night at Jwala forest range when he along with a team of nearly 24 personnel was chasing the vehicles laden with riverbed material on Friday late evening. The deceased has seven children.

The illegal miners had come prepared as it reportedly held a dozen foresters captive inside the dense forest. But they beat a hasty retreat when they realised a police team was on its way to the spot. The police said that the tractor trolley has been identified and the driver Jaswant was arrested late Saturday evening.

After a directive by the chief minister, forest minister Harak Singh Rawat ordered the removal of divisional forest officer (Terai East) Kahkashan Nasim, sub-divisional officer Balwant Shahi and ranger Shekhar Tiwari. “The order for their removal has been issued and officials will be attached to the forest headquarters in Dehradun till investigation is over,” Rawat told Hindustan Times.

SSP, Nainital, Janmejay Khanduri said the tractor trolley driver Jaswant was arrested and questioning was on. There had been reports of illegal quarrying on Baur, Kosi and Dabka rivers and action would be taken against such acts, he added.

The opposition Congress attacked the government for “patronizing” the mining mafia. “There is difference in BJP’s working and words. The incident has come to the fore within few days of BJP assuming power. We know that one of the ministers in the Trivendra Singh Rawat Cabinet from Udhamsingh Nagar is a part of mining mafia and BJP is giving shelter to him,” PCC president Kishore Upadhyay alleged.

In another important decision, police circle officer Mithilesh Kumar was transferred to Chamoli district for failure to stop illegal mining.

On Saturday, SSP, Udham Singh Nagar, Sadanand Date conducted raids in Sultan Patti against those involved in illegal quarrying and seized nine tractor trolleys laden with riverbed material. Date suspended 11 police personnel of Sultanpur Patti for dereliction of duty. “A drive has been launched against illegal quarrying and action would continue in days to come,” the SSP said.

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