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Sand mafia having a free run in Ferozepur

Illegal mining scene shifts to this border district due to rain playing a spoilsport in other parts of the state, claims former MLA; dept does not deny claim, but pleads that staff shortage is hampering action

punjab Updated: Jul 31, 2017 09:23 IST
Gaurav Sagar Bhaskar
Gaurav Sagar Bhaskar
Hindustan Times, Ferozepur
Sand mafia,sand mining mafia,Ferozepur
The DC claims that the erring firms have been fined. (HT Photo)

With a staff shortage of more than 60% (25 posts of sanctioned 39 are vacant) with the district mining department, illegal sand mining has become rampant in the district. This is even as the Congress government had made the curbing of this grave illegality as one of its major poll planks.

“Every night, scores of trucks and trolleys are found on the majority of the main roads of the district over-loaded with sand, but none is there to put a check on malpractices,” claimedformer two-time BJP MLA Ferozepur (urban) and state president of BJP Kisan Morcha. Admitting that the illegality existed, an official claimed, “None of the four assembly constituencies in the district have escaped the plunder of illegal mining. After the change in guard in the state, just the faces of sand mafia have changed.”

Department officials plead to shortage of staff as the reason behind very little being done to stop the menace.They also claim the entire state’s mafia had now turned to Ferozepur with rain in other parts of the state making it difficult for the mafia to mine sand. “Of 39 sanctioned posts in the local mining department, only 14 have staff. How can we tackle illegal mining,” said an official with the department, on the condition of anonymity.

“Be it the mining department, the civil authorities or the police, all have bowed down before the ‘politically patronised’ sand mafia. The big fish always go unharmed, with the department taking action against the small fry for the sake of formality,” Nannu claimed, adding that sometimes equipment was seized from the sites, but it was also released on payment of paltry fines. “With the monsoon upon us, the majority of the riverbed areas of the state, except Ferozepur, cannot be mined. So, mining is rampant at night,” said another official.

When contacted, Ferozepur deputy commissioner Ramvir refuted any charges of illegal mining and claimed that a special drive had been launched.

“Physical verification of each of the 35 approved legal mining sites in district has been done. Those indulging in illegal mining were fined. The licence of one of the firms was cancelled,” the DC claimed.

“Owners of six companies found to be involved in illegal mining fined have been fined Rs 60 lakh. More than 20 JCB machines and scores of tractor trolleys have been impounded. Landlords who allowed sand to be illegally mined were also fined. They have also been booked,” he added. Ferozepur SSP Gaurav Garg rubbished any charges of police laxity against sand mining.

Punjab mining director Amit Dhaka said, “We are trying to curb illegal mining, but need more time. Soon, we will auction more quarries to reduce the gap between supply and demand. This will act as a major deterrent against illegal mining.”

First Published: Jul 31, 2017 09:23 IST