Even though there is a ban on sand mining in Punjab, at least two dozen crushers are active on the periphery of Chandigarh in the Majri block of Kharar and Mubarikpur area of Derabassi, giving a lie to the administration’s claims about cracking down on illegal mining.
A Newsline visit showed that Khijrabaad, Kubaheri, Mianpur, Lubhangarh, and Tapprian villages are the worst-hit areas in the Majri block. Residents of Khijrabaad alleged that they had brought the matter to the notice of senior officials of the mining department, and the police but to no avail.
A mining officer, who requested anonymity, claimed that 27 crushers are feeding on illegal mining in the Majri block alone.
“These crushers are making a mockery of the entire system. They are getting the gravel illegally from unscrupulous elements, who dig up gravel from the seasonal rivulets and process it at these crushers,” the officer said.
It was on December 20, 2018, that the Punjab and Haryana High Court stayed proceedings under the Punjab State Sand and Gravel Mining Policy-2018. While staying the e-notice for auction of sand mines in the state, the division bench of Chief Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Arun Palli made it clear that any proceedings in furtherance of the auction notice, dated October 31, and the policy, dated October 26, would remain stayed. The court is yet to lift the stay.
Khijrabaad resident Gurwinder Singh Girn told Newsline that illegal miners have dug up fields to a depth of 30 to 40 feet. “The neighbouring farmers are in a bind, for whenever they irrigate their fields, the water drains towards the dug-up area.’’
“The paddy season is just two months away. I don’t know how we will be able to plant saplings in standing water when it flows down to the dug-up areas,’’ he added.
The cost of sand in a tipper has gone up from around Rs 8,000 to Rs 12,000 per tipper and even more, making it a lucrative business for the illegal miners.
Sher Mohammad, who was instrumental in getting a Vigilance Bureau (VB) inquiry into illegal mining on shamlat land (village common land), fumed, “‘There is not a single approved mining site in the entire Kharar sub-division. Who is allowing these people to dig up the sand?’’
He alleged that the miners swing into action between 8 pm and 6 am. “Hundreds of tipper trucks cross our villages ferrying sand from the fields and also from the seasonal rivulets in the area. No one stops them. These people have eaten up our fields and also uprooted hundreds of trees. It is going to be a grave environmental issue in the coming years,” Sher Mohammad lamented.
He claimed that the local police had not registered a single case of illegal mining in the area in the last three months.
In Mubarikpur, around 12 km from Zirakpur, the situation is equally bad. Mubarikpur is located on the banks of the Ghaggar river which makes it an ideal place for miners.
Kakrali village is notorious for this illegal practice. Last month, the police registered two cases of illegal mining against some residents of Kakrali village who had dug up sand from their fields.
Mohali Deputy Commissioner Gurpreet Kaur Sapra said she had constituted teams to carry out raids in the areas affected by mining. “We take action whenever we get any information about illegal mining,’’ she said.