Illegal mining on land owned by private persons continues unabated in villages surrounding New Chandigarh with certain elements now charging ‘goonda tax’ to make sure that vehicles laden with illegally mined sand or gravel is not stopped by the vigilant locals.
The Indian Express team visited the villages of Abhipur, Mianpur Changar, Kubaheri and Khizrabad and found that despite several news reports highlighting the mining being carried out illegally in these areas, it was business as usual for those involved in such activities.
A group of villagers who have consistently been maintaining a vigil on such activities informed that a large number of landowners are now actively involved in illegal mining in their fields.
“There are many influential people in the area who owe large tracts of land. They take permission from mining department to undertake small scale digging in their land for their own needs but misuse that permission to carry on illegal mining by exceeding permissible limit. All this is well known to the district authorities,” said a villager on condition of anonymity.
To add to the misery of those who are protesting against the illegal activities, goons hired by the those involved in illegal mining keep moving on village roads so that the locals do not stop the tippers or hold protests.
“The goons come in the evening in SUVs. The stop the tippers and charge ‘goonda tax’ from the drivers. We do not know who these people are,” said Bhag Singh, who is actively waging a battle against illegal mining.
Explaining about the ‘goonda tax’, Ranjodh Singh Mavi, a resident of Abhipur who was attacked by illegal miners last year, said said that the goons charge Rs 3 per square feet from the tipper drivers. He added that a tipper truck carries approximately 700 to 800 square feet sand.
“On an average they charge Rs 2,100 to Rs 2,400 ‘goonda tax’ per tipper truck,” added Bhag Singh.
Bhag Singh told The Indian Express that they do not allow the tipper truck drivers to ply in their village. “Whenever we hold protests, it helps us reduce the illegal sand mining for a few days,” he said, adding that it was solely due to the efforts the villagers that there had been some reduction in the illegal mining. “But still their goons roam free and the administration does not take any action against them,” he added.
Ranjodh Singh added that whenever the villagers stop trucks carrying illegally mined sand, they inform the mining department and police but get indifferent response from both the departments.
Ram Singh, another resident of Abhipur village said that they have lodged repeated complaints to the Deputy Commissioner (DC) and the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Mohali regarding illegal mining and also about the release of two tipper trucks, seized by villagers, by Majri police station on June 11.
“We had informed the mining department’s junior engineer (JE), Gurjeet Singh, about illegal activities in an area and We went to Kubaheri village where we caught two tipper trucks laden with sand. The tippers were handed over to Majri police but the police released both the tippers to the owners in no time,” Ram Singh.
JE Gurjeet Singh of mining department did not respond to the phone calls but Kharar (II) Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Amroz Singh, who is responsible for New Chandigarh area, said that whenever they receive any complaint from the mining department they lodge FIRs.
“In the last one week we lodged two FIRs, one at Mullanpur Garibdas police station and other at Kurali (Sadar) police stations. If any police officer is found to be involved into this, we shall take action against him,” he said.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Kuldeep Singh Chahal claimed that there was reduction in illegal sand mining. He added that he shall check that how the tippers were released by the concerned police officials.
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