After a brief lull following the COVID-19 restrictions put in place by the state government, illegal sand mining has once again begun in the Punjab villages surrounding Chandigarh at a time when administration is busy in wheat harvest procurement and sending migrant labour back to their states.
Even during the peak of lockdown, in April as well as recently in early May, illegal mining continued in spurts leading to two FIRs being registered by the Mohali police in this regard.
The first such case was registered at Mullanpur Garibdas police station on April 24. The second FIR was registered at Handesra police station on May 3. Villagers in the area say that these were just a few of the many instances when sand miners did not care for the curfew imposed by the state government and carried on with their activity with impunity.
Bhag Singh, a resident of Abhipur village, who has been waging a battle against the illegal sand mining for long told The Indian Express that the activities continued till the wee hours of March 22 when the lockdown came into affect. “And they re-started on May 3 when the lockdown was further extended,” he said.
Bhag Singh, an ex-servicemen, says that he, and his fellow villagers, had been noticing the movement of tipper trucks since May 3. “We stopped many trucks and saw that they were laden with fresh sand. The illegal sand mining has started in full swing in our area,” he said.
Another villager, Ram Singh said that around 40 trucks laden with sand were stopped by the villagers on early on March 22.
“A few days back, again, we blocked the road and stopped the tipper trucks. We also made videos on our mobile phones. The CCTV cameras installed in the village have captured the trucks that passed through the village,” he said.
“A couple of days back some goons hired by the illegal sand miners, who have political patronage, approached us and sought to strike a deal. We refused. We will not budge an inch till this menace is eradicated from our area,” said Ranjodh Singh, who had sustained serious injuries six months back when he was attacked by the sand mining mafia for opposing their activities. “Nobody is bothered about the illegal mining. It has started again. The district administration and police must stop this practice,” he added.
The Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Mohali, Kuldeep Singh Chahal said that the district police had registered two cases when the mining department brought the incidents to their notice. He added that if the mining department lodges any complaint, the police takes action.
On the other hand, the Deputy Commissioner, Mohali, Girish Dayalan, said that he had already instructed the mining department to lodge complaint in case they find any illegal sand mining activity.
Kharar MLA, Kanwar Sandhu, who represents the area, said that there was not a single sanctioned mining site in his constituency. “Despite this, there are crushers which function here on the pretext that the get gravel from Ropar. The government should ensure that any area which does not have any mining sites should also not have any crushers,” he said.
The MLA added that he had also received calls from the villagers after the mining activity started and that he had spoken to the district officials who promised to get it stopped.
“Certain district officials who used to note our complaints have now stopped attending phone calls. This scourge will not end till these miners have political patronage,” said Bhag Singh.
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