06 August, 2022 – Ferozepur : At dusk, scores of JCBs and tractor-trolleys come out of “daylong hibernation” and make a beeline to the illegal mining sites often referred to as “khuds” to excavate sand in this border district.
When The Tribune visited some of these sites, those were almost inundated with rainwater. But the contours of the field amply indicated towards the illegal mining activity afoot there.
At Gillan village, acres of land were seen dug up to 30 ft on both sides of the road indicating blatant violation of norms. Village sarpanch Jazz admitted that mining takes place at night, but hastened to add that due to rains for past several days, it was not taking place now.
At several other locations, including Rauke, Gajni Wala, Lakha Haji, Habib Wala, Mattar ke Hithar, Gatti Mathar in Mamdot area, Sudhsingh Wala, Basti Borawali in Mallanwala block, Basti Ram Lal in Arif ke, village Isa Grain in Guruharsahai areas and many more, mining has been taking place in a clandestine manner.
Not many people are ready to come on record due to the fear of the mining mafia, which hitherto had political backing. As a result, even officials refrained from confronting it. “Nobody will say anything about the illegal sand mining taking place in their area because they don’t want to die. It is the responsibility of the government to tighten the noose around the sand mining mafia,” said another sarpanch.
In the past five months from March to July, 40 cases were registered in connection with illegal mining and more than 50 tractors/JCBs were confiscated. But these activities have not stopped. While the officials concerned deny any kind of mining activity in the district, sand-laden trolleys are being sold at a cost ranging between Rs 5,000 and 8,000, while a tipper costs around Rs 15,000. These are being supplied by small-time vendors or by farmers directly.
“Due to rain for the past several weeks and enforcement by the Mining Department, the big ‘khuds’ which were earlier being dug with the help of poke lane machines and JCBs under political patronage are not actively being operated now. However, in the absence of auctioned sand mining sites, illegal mining is still taking place in a dozen villages in this belt,” admitted a building contractor pleading anonymity.
He said that the construction works were suffering and sand prices have increased in the absence of a mechanism or norms about sand mining.
When contacted, BSF officials said that they were not aware of illegal mining activities along the border in this area. “It is prevalent in Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur and Pathankot districts,” said a Commandant-rank officer.
Courtesy : The Tribune