ON THE road linking Kakrali village to the main road, two policemen are sitting on chairs next to their parked Gypsy. Dalwinder Singh, a resident of the village, explains that the policemen have been here since the last two days. Before the police arrived, there used to be a tent at the same spot, said Dalwinder, where five to six employees of a sand mining contractor were camping. They would stop each sand-laden tipper truck coming out of the village, take money from the driver and give him a “parchi”.
Officers of the mining department told The Indian Express that the parchi was a “receipt” for an “illegal tax” levied by the mining contractor on the sand transporter. Earlier this week, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who is facing opposition heat on the so-called “goonda tax”, gave orders to all DCs and SSPs to crack down on extortionists and illegal mining.
On Wednesday, DC Gurpreet Kaur Sapra and SSP Kuldeep Singh Chahal carried out a surprise inspection in the entire Derabassi area, where illegal mining has been rampant, including in Kakrali. On the same day, the mining department issued notices to six residents of the village for leasing out their land to contractors for illegal mining.
The signs of mining are everywhere in the village. Only one contractor has been allotted an approved site in the entire village. The site is located near the Ghaggar River. But land has been dug up in at least 10 places in the village, far from this approved site. There are pits extending over an acre of land at some places in the village and each pit is no less than eight to 10 feet deep.
Villagers claimed that they gave their land to contractors for “levelling” and only later did they discover that the same contractors were digging mining pits. “Three years I gave my 1.5 acres to a contractor who said he would level it for me, so that I could do some farming,” said Major Singh. They dug pits on the land. Major claims he tried to complain to the mining department and the police but no action was taken. Now, he says, the land has become useless for farming because of the pits. So, he gives the land every year.
However, a mining department official said the villagers are well aware that their land is going to be used for illegal mining. Each person in the village who has given his land for so-called “levelling”, has received sums from the contractor ranging from Rs 60,000-90,000 annually depending on the location of the land – closer the land is to the river, higher the rate.
Major said he had heard that the mining department had sent notices to some farmers in the village but no one had received them yet. Satpal Sharma, the sarpanch of the village, said he had heard that six farmers had been issued the notices, but they were yet to be recieved. Sharma said in the past, too, some farmers in the village had received notices and paid fines, but illegal mining continued.
District Mining Officer Simarpreet Kaur Dhillon said those who had been sent notices will receive them in a day or two. When asked how much the farmers would be fined, she said it would depend on the depth of the pits, adding that notices had been issued to the contractors also. “We charge a royalty of Rs 10 for digging up one tonne sand and Rs 60 for digging up one tonne gravel. Now, we will make an assessment of how much sand and gravel were dug up,” Dhillon added.
“If the administration wants to take action, they must book illegal miners, what will be achieved by giving notice to farmers,” Major pointed out. DC Sapra said farmers should refrain from giving their land to miners as that constituted illegal mining.
There are only six approved mining sites in the whole of Mohali district, and all are in Derabassi – Kakrali, Pandwala, Basma, Khanpur Khaddar, Alamgir, and Hansala villages. But mining officers have detected rampant illegal mining in these villages all around the approved sites. In Mubarikpur village, where there is no approved mining site, the department had erected a barrier across the causeway over Ghaggar, to prevent trucks from accessing the river bed.
“Those, involved in illegal mining, broke the barricade to make way for trucks to carry sand from inside the river,” Kulwant Singh, a Mubarikpur resident, told Chandigarh Newsline. Most of the illegal mining here takes place on the river bed. “The illegal miners are so powerful that no one dares to stop them,” added Kulwant.