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FIVE days after The Indian Express highlighted the massive illegal sand-mining on Godavari bed at Sironcha in Gadchiroli district, the district authorities and the local police carried out raids Saturday night, seizing four earth-movers (JCBs) and about 70 trucks involved in the illegal operation. The special operation was launched by Additional Superintendent of Police, Aheri, R Raja and Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Aheri, Ramamurthy between 11 pm and midnight.
“We were seized of the various illegalities in the sand-mining operations there for a while and concern was being voiced over it from many quarters. So, we undertook this operation to find one JCB excavating sand at Wadadham and three JCBs at Nagaram-1 and Nagaram-2 mines. We seized all four as also about 70-odd trucks, which were lined up for carrying the sand,” Raja told The Indian Express.
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“We are now doing the panchnama and will (then) take call on the nature of offences to be registered against the lease owners,” he added. Asked if any arrests were made, Raja said, “Unfortunately, the personnel on the sites seemed to have got wind of our operation and fled the scene.” The three mines are among nine leases granted in September 2016 to various contractors in what is being seen as the biggest sand mining business going on anywhere in Maharashtra.
While the 10th mine was yet to be auctioned, the total area being plundered for mine comes to 45 hectares, mostly in the Godavari bed. One of the mines, however, is in the adjoining Pranhita river.
As reported earlier by The Indian Express, rules are being flouted with impunity at all the mines. As against the stipulation of only manual extraction, the entire mining was being done using JCBs.
No alternative plantations were made by the leasees to compensate for environmental damage. No flagpost has been erected to demarcate the exact area leased out for mining.
Huge canal-like trenches have been dug violating depth stipulations. And as was proved during the late Saturday night operation, the mining was going on beyond sunset in clear violation of the rules. Dinner parties involving some top district officials at Sironcha had become the talk of the town with allegations of some top officials hobnobbing with the sand mafia flying thick and high. Gadchiroli Collector Ranga Nayak, however, had told The Indian Express that he was short of supervising staff to curb the illegal activities. He had also said sand mining had hugely increased Gadchiroli’s revenue by about Rs 50 crore.