Illegal sand mining: Notices to 120 violators in Ferozepur
Within three days of a Hindustan Times report highlighting the rampant illegal mining in this border district, the state mining authorities and the local administration have swung into action against the sand mafia.
Notices in more than 120 cases of illegal mining have been issued, with violators liable to pay a penalty of more than Rs 80 lakh. However, no action has been taken or ordered against mining officials, without whose involvement illegal mining could not take place.
“Several raids were carried out not only on 35 approved sand quarries, but also on those functioning illegally. Gross violations, particularly digging below the approved ground level, were reported, besides mining from illegal sites,” officials revealed on condition of anonymity. “Fine amounting to Rs 80 lakh will be recovered from the 120 violators in the district, including 50 in Ferozepur, 60 in Zira and 10 in Guru Har Sahai,” said Ramvir, deputy commissioner (DC), Ferozepur.
“We are also in the process of fixing the responsibility of officials, particularly the mining officer concerned and the station house officer (SHO). Action will be taken against them as per law,” the DC said.
“We have so far seized 10 poke-lane machines worth Rs 6 crore, a number of JCBs and tractor-trailers, besides registering more than 30 police cases for illegal sand mining,” he added.
“We have zero tolerance for illegal mining. To meet the demand of sand, 17 more quarries in district will be auctioned very soon,” said Ramvir. “Illegal mining remains by and large unchecked even as it was a one of the main poll planks of Captain Amarinder Singh. Even after the change of guard in the state, scores of trucks and trailers loaded with sand are found on most of the main roads in the district every night. There is no one to put a check on this malpractice,” rued a resident of Chingali Jadid village, one of the approved sites in Ferozepur (rural) assembly segment.
“Unchecked sand mafia has a direct political patronage. Not only their relatives or close aides, but PSOs (personal security officers) are also actively involved in reaping the ‘cash crop’ of sand round the clock,” said another villager, seeking anonymity.
“Following repeated complaints by rural residents in the vicinity of sand quarry sites, the PWD department has been assigned to prepare a special report to assess damage to roads due to commuting by sand mafia,” revealed an official in the PWD office. “We have asked the PWD department to prepare a report on damage to various roads in the district so that erring sand contractors can be penalised accordingly,” said Ferozepur additional deputy commissioner (ADC-general) Vaneet Kumar, who led a team that raided some sand quarries.
“Due to the tightening of noose by the administration, the sand mafia have now shifted their base to ‘Shahkot’ in Moga. Majority of sand quarries are bearing a deserted look, with the price of a sand truck increasing from Rs 11,000 to Rs 18,000,” said Gurpreet Singh, a construction contractor.