A BJP lawmaker from Rajasthan has come out in support of villagers who illegally mine sand from River Chambal saying it doesn’t matter if “fish-eating crocodiles die” but no human should be allowed to die by putting a ban on mining. Bhawani Singh Rajawat, the MLA from Ladpura in Bhilwara district who makes headlines with unfailing regularity with his controversial statements had earlier advocated shooting dead all crocodiles and gharials that enter human habitat. Rajawat claimed that there were hardly any gharials left in the National Chambal Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary. “And if there are any, let them die. People in Rangpur and Manas villages shouldn’t be stopped from mining sand from the river for a living,” he said. The MLA said that the villagers “have been mining sand for several generations to run their poor families” and should not be stopped from doing so. “Villagers risk their lives while mining out sand from Chambal. They are not organized sand mafia but innocent people who want to run their families. They should not be stopped from doing so for the sake of protecting the gharials,” Rajawat said, adding that stopping villagers would be like killing man for animal.As per officials, River Chambal is the only remaining water reservoir for dolphins, crocodiles and ghariyals — all endangered species — in central India. These are Schedule I animals and their killing entails up to 7 years in jail and a fine of Rs 5 lakh under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.Rajawat also lashed out at his own party’s government in Rajasthan for “targeting poor villagers in his area” despite failing to check river sand mining in River Banas in Tonk district.The Supreme Court had imposed a ban on river sand mining in November last year. “I want to urge the apex court to also think about human beings instead of only animals,” the MLA said when reminded of the ban.In a report tabled in Rajasthan assembly on March 31, the Comptroller and Auditor General had said about 98.87 lakh tonnes of minerals worth Rs 204.5 crore were illegally excavated in five districts of Rajasthan between 2011-12 and 2016-17. The mining not only violated rules and regulations but also flouted the Supreme Court’s direction to stop degradation of environment in the State’s Aravalli hills.This is not the first time that Rajawat has espoused killing crocodiles and gharials. Terming the reptiles a menace, the MLA had in 2016 recommended shooting the ones that stray into human habitats. Claiming that Chandraloi river, a tributary of the Chambal, is infested with around 3,000 “man-eating crocodiles” who venture into human habitations. “This has become a threat to human life. There is no other option but to kill them,” he had said. Rajawat has made controversial statements in the past too. When a coaching student in Kota was murdered by a group of students hailing from Bihar two years ago, Rajawat called for throwing all Bihari students out of the city. Last month he had targeted his own party’s Member of Parliament and son of chief minister Vasundhara Raje for “neglecting” Rajputs and not giving prominent posts to the members of the community in the state bureaucracy.In March this year he asked party workers to tie to a tree officials who slap penalty on farmers for power theft or overload, accusing them of hounding the poor and favouring the rich.