70-year-old Sardara Singh of Handesra village has devoted his post-retirement age to stop the practice of illegal mining in his area.
Speaking about illegal mining in the area, Sardara Singh said it was most prevalent near Ghaggar river and Tangri river on Haryana side.
Sardara Singh retired from Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) as a divisional engineer in 2004. Even before retirement, he started taking a step against land grabbers and illegal miners. With his efforts, he saved 75 acres of his village’s panchayat land in 1998 from some people’s grabs.
“In 1998, while I was still working, I got to know that some people wanted to grab hold of our village’s land. I brought the issue to the notice of then Patiala Deputy Commissioner (DC) Jasbir Singh Bir. Following this, the land was handed over to the forest department,” Sardara Singh told Chandigarh Newsline.
Sardara Singh said illegal mining has increased in their area over last 15 years due to boom in construction business in Mohali district.
“Hundreds of builders came to the area and constructed flats. Thousands of people have come up in Zirakpur and Derabassi and the demand for land has increased,” Sardara Singh added.
Sardara Singh said he has raised the issue with district authorities many times and has even written to Punjab and Haryana governments about the illegal practice in the area.
“In the past, I used to stop many illegal miners who dug up sand near our village. With our efforts we saved prime land of our village, but now nobody is listening to us. I was even threatened but I still continued to raise my voice against illegal mining,” Sardara Singh added.
He further said he wrote around three dozen letters to officials, including Punjab Chief Minister (CM), district administration and police officers.
Sardara Singh rued that no action was taken against illegal mining despite his repeated attempts to make the government aware of the practice.
“People ask me what I am fighting for. I tell them that illegal miners eat up sand and minerals from our area. I meet people, including college students, and spread awareness about the ill effects of illegal mining. People listen to me but they do not come forward because of fear,” he added.