THE AUTHORITIES have turned a blind eye to the illegal sand mining going on in a part of the Ravi river crossing through Ajnala in Amritsar district. While the district administration and state police have been communicating on paper, illegal mining is going on unchecked.
“No mining site is officially operational in Ajnala. I had asked police to stop this mining in a letter issued around 15 days ago. I have also sent a reminder to the district police. Their reply is awaited,” said Anupreet Kaur, subdivisional magistrate, Ajnala. J. Elanchezihian, SSP, Amritsar (Rural), said, “It is not in my knowledge. We will definitely take action if any such activities are on.”
Sources claimed that close aides of certain politicians were involved in the illegal mining. Earlier, those who indulged in the mining were affiliated to Akalis. But, after the March 11 result, some people affiliated to the Congress have taken over mining operations, the sources said. The labour and machinery used in illegal mining remain the same. At the site, a large number of trucks and tractor-trolleys continue to excavate sand from the riverbed near Kot Rajada, Bedi Channa and Charpur villages of Ajnala.
The legal tender for mining in Ajnala had expired in October 2016. The last contractor was Prashant Joshi. “My contract expired in October 2016. I have nothing to do with the ongoing mining in Ajnala. According to my information, no new tenders have been issued for mining in Ajnala so far,” he told The Indian Express.
Illegal mining is a well organised activity in Ajnala. The sand mafia even issues computerised slips to its clients. Rs 2,400 is the cost for a trolley and Rs 3,000 for a truck, excluding loading charges. Rs 1,000-2,000 are charged separately for loading of sand per trolley/ truck. Those who indulge in illegal mining even offer discount to nearby area residents so that they don’t complain to the authorities.
The men, who operate machinery at the site, told The Indian Express that a Muktsar resident, Nishan Singh, had been running this mining business for a long time. Nishan is a close aide of Kanwarjit Singh Rozi Barkandi, the Shiromani Akali Dal MLA from Muktsar.
Sources added that people close to Congress leader Kulwant Singh from Boharwala village in Ajnala have taken over the mining operations now.
“We are out of this business now. I have quit much before the elections,” said Nishan. Kulwant Singh Boharwala is brother of Punjab Congress secretary Bikramjit Singh. Boharwala is a village in Ajnala. Kulwant Singh Boharwala, however, denied any involvement in the mining business.
“I made no attempt to take possession of the mining site in Ajnala. There was a clash, a bid to take possession of the said site, but those were Congressmen from Gagowal village. I have nothing to do with them. Still, Akalis are running the mining business in Ajnala. Now, the new government has taken over. We shall ask the district administration to remove this possession of Akalis,” said Kulwant.