Jatinder Singh, a 47-year-old farmer of Khijrabaad village, daily washes his tipper which he purchased three years ago. The tipper is a proud possession of Jatinder which contributes to 50 per cent of his income. He gives the tipper on rent to the sand mining contractors who pay him a good amount of money.
However, for the last one week, Jatinder has not got any work. “Kuchh dina to kamm nahi hai. Main soch reha han ki isdi kisht kiven davan. Har mahine 20,000 di kisht deni paindi hai (For the last few days, I have no work. I am thinking how to pay the instalment for my tipper. I pay a monthly instalment of Rs 20,000 every month),” Jatinder said.
Kulwant Singh, another Khijrabaad villager who owns a tipper, earns between Rs 4,000 and 5,000 on every trip he makes to deliver the sand outside the 10-km area of the site from where he loads his tipper. “Suppose, I have to deliver the sand in Mohali city from Khijrabaad’s site. Then I will charge Rs 5,000 per trip. Usually, we make two trips a day. If we have to make a trip within an area of 10 km from the mining site, we charge Rs 2,500 to 3,000 per trip,” Kulwant said, adding that contractors provide them safe routes.
A visit to the village in Majri block, which includes Khijrabaad, Mianpur Jhangar, Majri village, Kubbaheri and Saini Majra, shows that tippers are parked outside every fourth or fifth house. Most of the owners of these tippers are local farmers.
Sukhwinder Singh, who is one of the members of the Anti-Mining Group formed by some youths in the village, explains the nexus. According to him, the tipper owners are paid according to the sand carrying capacity of a tipper. “A tipper can carry 700 feet sand. I can name few of our villagers who own the tippers. They are either former or present panchayat members. There are 14 tippers in our village only,” said Sher Mohamad, who lodged complaints against the owners of the tippers for destroying the village roads.
Asked to name any person who owns a tipper or crusher, Sukhwinder said that the family of the sarpanch of their village, Hardeep Singh, owned a tipper which they had given on rent to a contractor for ferrying sand. Hardeep Singh, however, denied that illegal mining was going on in their area. He said that everything was being done with the permission of the government.
The district mining officer, C L Garg, maintains that according to the government’s specifications, if a miner digs up 25 feet area at a mining site, it generates 1 tonne sand. As per the existing rates, 100 feet or 4 tonnes of sand costs Rs 135.
Explaining the cost factor, Lalit Kumar, also a member of the Anti-Mining Group, asserts that when a tipper owner gives his vehicle on rent for illegal mining, they charge around Rs 300 per 100 feet or 4 tonnes of sand, which is double the cost of the government rates. “They also include the carriage charges from the contractors. If the tippers have to deliver the assignment outside Punjab, say Panchkula, they charge Rs 6,000 to Rs 7,000 per trip,” Kumar said.