A 60-year-old deputy ranger of the forest department was crushed to death by a tractor carrying illegally mined sand in Morena district of Madhya Pradesh on Friday morning, the police said.
Police said, the deceased has been identified as Subedar Singh Kushwah, a resident of Bhind district of the state. He was posted at the Ghorna forest chowki under Civil Line police station area – located on Dholpur highway, 5 km from the Morena district headquarter, for the last two years.
Morena police have registered a case under section 302 of the IPC against the driver and recovered the tractor which was hiding around the bushes of National Highway 3.
Kushwah’s retirement was due in June 2018, but he got an extension under the new retirement scheme introduced by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government recently, raising the age limit from 60 to 62 years.
It is worth mentioning that this is the same place where a young IPS officer, Narendra Kumar, was crushed to death in March 2012, when he was trying to check illegal mining. Three constables Atwal Singh Chouhan, Dharmendra Chouhan and Narendra Sharma have also lost their lives in separate incidents in a short span while trying to check sand miners.
The deceased Subedar Singh Kushwah was on morning duty with four other forest guards– Ramnath Sharma, Bhagwan Solanki, Sanjay, and Akash Tomar. Around 10:20 a.m., he saw a tractor carrying illegal sand and went to the other side of road in a bid to stop it.
Meanwhile, he noticed that two men, allegedly associated with the sand mafia, trying to remove the spike strips installed to stop such vehicles. Kushwaha rushed towards them with his cane. At that moment, the tractor, which was coming from the other side of the road on high speed, hit him from behind.
Kushwaha immediately fell on the road and his clothes got entangled in the truck’s front guard. The driver dragged him around 20 feet from the spot on National Highway 3 and later mowed him down. The incident has reportedly been captured on a CCTV camera.
According to some passers-by, the other guards chased the tractor for around 12 km and they also exchanged fire. However, the driver managed to escape, leaving the tractor hidden around the bushes.
“Subedar Singh Kushwah got killed in a bid to stop the tractor. He died on the spot while the person driving the tractor escaped,” said forest guard Bhawan, who was at the spot.
Confirming this, Morena SP Amit Sanghi said, “Two people on a motorcycle were trying to remove the tyre bursting spikes that were placed on the road by forest officials to stop tractors and trucks ferrying illegal sand. When Kushwah tried to stop them, he was hit by a speeding tractor from behind.”
Those on the motorcycle were escorting the tractors and are said to be associated with the sand mining mafia. Forest officials have been using locally-designed spike strips or spike boards to impede or stop the movement of tractors by puncturing the tyres. In Morena, it was a metal plate studded with spikes.
After Kushwah’s death, the state government has launched a crackdown against the sand mafia and seized more than 50 dumpers in Sehore district, who were ferrying sand from Nasrullahganj.
Hours after the incident, the opposition Congress made a sharp attack on the BJP for harbouring the sand mafia. PCC chief Kamal Nath tweeted: “The morale of mining mafia remains boosted in the Shivraj government. Previously, the mining mafia in Morena killed IPS officer Narendra Kumar and now, again in Morena the news of the murder of deputy ranger Subedar Singh Kushwaha,”
Later, leader of the opposition, Ajay Singh, demanded the resignation of CM Chouhan for failing to control the sand mafia menace.
Martyr status and compensation
The deceased Kushwah has been awarded with martyr status and Rs. 10 lakh as ex-gratia payment by the forest department.
District forest officer Dr. A. A. Ansari said, “The department has awarded Kushwah with martyr status and compensation of Rs. 10 lakh has been announced to his family. The department also gave Rs. 50,000 immediately to his kin.”
Madhya Pradesh has a history of the sand mafia threatening, attacking and killing opponents of illegal mining. A huge black economy has emerged around the sand business in the state, which is controlled largely by politicians and their relatives.
On September 2, 2018, forest department seized a truck carrying illegally mined sand in Chhatarpur which was associated to the ruling party’s Lovekush division head Ram Bahadur Giri.
The BJP in-charge from Sarwai division of Chhattarpur district, Pankaj Pandey has been fined by Rs. 1 crore by the forest department for his involvement in illegal mining and the case is underway in the SDM court.
Disappointed with the seizing of his truck, which was carrying illegally mined sand, former head of Chhatarpur BJP Yuva Morcha was engaged in a fight with the sub-inspector. Though he was booked by the police, later the party promoted him to the post of general secretary of the district.
Illegal mining rampant in state
Illegal mining of stones and stone slabs is rampant in Morena and Bhind district of Chambal region bordering Uttar Pradesh despite prohibition by the state government. Sand mining mafia is active in almost all the districts in MP, destroying river beds which get dried up in winter and peak summers. Many rivers in the state are facing a threat due to rampant illegal mining in the state.
Some major incidents in the same area
-The sand mafia was blamed when an IPS officer, Narendra Kumar, was run over by a tractor in Morena district, neighbouring Bhind, in 2012.
-On May 2012, town inspector of the Chinnoni police station Hitendra Rathoure was attacked by the sand mafia owing to his strict actions.
-Later that year, a tractor rammed the car of Abhishek Singh, an IAS trainee posted in Morena who was trying to prevent sand-mining near the National Chambal Sanctuary.
-On March 2013, sand mafia allegedly killed a farmer who tried to stop them.
-On March 2014, when a SAF commander tried to stop a vehicle, they shot at a SAF constable and escaped.
-A police constable, Dharmendra Chauhan, was run over by a vehicle carrying illegally mined sand when he tried to stop it in Morena in 2015.
- In March 2016, a tractor trolley that was allegedly smuggling sand, crushed to death a forest guard, Narender Sharma, after being challenged at Raira in Gwalior district.
-On March 26, 2018, a journalist, Sandeep Sharma from Morena was crushed under the wheels of a tractor. He had reported several cases of illegal mining in the area and was under the radar of the mafia. The killing drew huge controversy and state government promptly initiated an SIT probe but no development has been reported yet.
- In June 2018, 18 members of a family on their way to a condolence meet were killed and five others were injured when a tractor-trolley ferrying illegally-mined sand rammed into their jeep in Morena near Ganjrampur village. The victims, all from Gwalior district, were going to Ghurgan village for the condolence meeting.
- An estimated 13,880 incidents of illegal sand-mining took place in the state in 2016-17 alone, but only 516 FIRs were lodged