Bihar: Powerful, Fearless Illegal Sand Miners Challenge Nitish Govt
According to a police report submitted to the Patna HC in 2017, there is a huge nexus between police, miners who enjoy political clout and mines department officials. Image credit: Mohd. Imran Khan.
Patna: Powerful and fearless illegal sand miners in Bihar have become a challenge for the state government. Contrary to state government claims, river belts are under their control.
The miners often attack administrative officers, the police and mining officials when they try to curb the lucrative business. In the past three months, the miners have attacked police and administrative officials more than two dozen times.
In the latest incident on Sunday night, henchmen of a miner attacked a team led by sub-divisional magistrate Sameer Kumar Saurabh that raided an illegal sand stock in Dehri, Rohtas district. The SDM’s bodyguard was seriously injured and hospitalised.
The police have lodged an FIR and arrested, at least, two people in connection with the incident. Saurabh told Newsclick that the “crackdown against illegal sand mining would continue” despite the attack.
Barely four days ago, henchmen of another miner pelted a police team with stones, beat up some personnel and damaged their vehicle when they tried to seize tractors loaded with sand near a river bank in Vaishali district. As per reports, the policemen sustained injuries and ran away for safety.
According to Hindi dailies, police teams were attacked by illegal sand miners in Nawada, Bhojpur, Patna, Nalanda, Saran, Aurangabad, Rohtas and Gaya districts in July and August.
A senior official of the Bihar Pollution Control Board, requesting anonymity, told Newsclick that illegal sand mining has become an organised crime syndicate over the years as it is an easy way to make money.
According to a police report submitted to the Patna High Court in 2017, illegal sand mining is thriving due to a huge nexus between the police, miners enjoying political clout and officials of the mines department. It further pointed out violation by sand mining companies that were given leases, particularly in Patna.
“Complete connivance of state government officials, particularly those from the police, mining and transport department ... the rules and laws on mining and the environment are merely reduced to paper…,” the report said.
Bihar had banned sand mining from July 1 to September 30 last year following a National Green Tribunal (NGT) order. However, the Supreme Court lifted the ban in November observing that it causes huge loss to the public exchequer.
The three-month ban was a boon for illegal miners, as it created a sand crisis and they got an opportunity to sell it at a higher rate in the market.
“Illegal sand mining increases during monsoons as big boats easily move and extract sand with the help of machines due to sufficient water level,” Satrughan Rai, who has been observing illegal sand mining in the Koilwar riverine belt, Bhojpur, told NewsClick.
An investigation by this reporter revealed that miners transport sand from near and far-off places at night by allegedly paying heavy bribe per truck to the police. For instance, at Pahleja Ghat, small miners told this reporter that at the Sonepur Police Station, in Saran, Rs 8 lakh-Rs 9 lakh per day was being paid for letting over 150 trucks pass.
Illegal sand mining has already affected the ecosystem, health and biodiversity of rivers in Bihar, say river experts and environmentalists.
Illegal sand mining continues in rivers, mainly in Sone, Kiul Falgu, Chanan, Morhar, Punpun and Ganga due to the alleged nexus between miners, local politicians, criminals, administrative officials and the police. Hundreds of boats trucks, tractors, dumpers and JCBs can be seen extracting and loading sand near the banks of different rivers.
River experts and environmentalists have warned that mindless sand mining had already badly affected ecosystems, health and biodiversity of rivers. Kiul is on the verge of extinction and the Sone river bed has been excessively damaged. The yellow sand of Sone is in high demand in the construction sector unlike Ganga’s, which is grey and is mainly used for filling.
Gopal Krishna, an environmental activist, told Newsclick that Sone’s health had severely deteriorated due to illegal mining. “Violation of law is the norm on Sone river bed. Earlier, abundant new sand accumulated after floods,” he said warning that “aquifers and surface water are getting destroyed due to sand mining”.
“Unavailability of drinking water in the area around the river could be a major problem in the near future. Villages around such areas will become ghostly places due unavailability of water,” he added.
At several places not far away from riverbanks, huge sand dunes illegally mined are visible. The sand is later loaded into heavy vehicles at night.
Illegal sand is sold in broad daylight in the open market in Patna and other places allegedly in full knowledge of the police and administrative officials. Trucks and tractors loaded with sand can be seen parked at several places in the state capital.
Last year, the then-state mines and geology minister Janak Ram had said that the state government incurrs an annual loss of Rs 700 crore due to illegal sand mining.
In another horrifying latest incident,a group of local sand mafia threw an ASI(police official) from a sand laden tractor and tried to crush the SPDO(a DySp rank official) at Anjanpir Chowk under town police station in Hajipur in Vaishali district on Monday night.
SDPO Raghav Dayal told NewsClick.in that the police team was attacked when it went to raids against illegal sand business.”We got information that some sand laden tractors were standing near Anjanpir Chowk ,police seized two sand Laden tractors.After that an ASI Pramod Singh was asked to sat on top of sand on the tractor ,driver was instructed to reach town police station.But on the way driver along with henchmen of sand mafia threw Singh from the running tractor and tried to crush me and other police officials”.
Later ,police lodged an FIR and arrested two people in the case.
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