Shifts base from Ropar to Nawanshahr district for its nefarious activities
The powerful sand mining mafia seems to have shifted its base from Ropar to Nawanshahr for extracting sand and gravel from the Sutlej riverbed.
A lax administration has ensured that the mafia gets away with everything - altering the course of the Sutlej, breaking the dhussi bundh (that protects villages along the Sutlej in case of floods) making way for trucks to ferry sand and gravel and mining the material right under the big bridges in violation of law.Mining is banned 1 km upstream and 500 metres downstream from big bridges.
Even worse, the mining contractors are using big excavators to dig the riverbed in addition to earth mowers. Residents of nearby villages allege that their protests and appeals to the district administration have fallen on deaf ears.
With hundreds of trucks ferrying sand and gravel quarried illegally, dhussi bundhs near Saidpur Kalan and Phul Makauri villages have sunk.
Though the district administration has imposed Section 144 of CrPC, banning the plying of heavy vehicles on dhussi bundhs, trucks ferrying sand and gravel continue to use these.
Santokh Ram, sarpanch of Saidpur Kalan village, said that miners had begun digging 10 ft to 12 ft deep trenches along the banks of the Sutlej in April this year.
“As a result, the Sutlej, with its course altered, has started flowing near populated areas,” he said.
The fertile land along the river, which was once cultivated, now has over 10 ft deep pits. Other than the legally auctioned quarries of Malakpur, Behlur Khurd, Madhala, Mehndipur, Sedpur Khurd, Knaun, Lalewal, Begowal, Burj Tehildas, Jhungian, Khoja, Bersal and Baramad Rel, illegal mining is going on at Phul Makauri, Saidpur Kalan and the riverbed near Niyamatpur and Shekhan Majara.
More importantly, the miners are targeting larger areas around the legally auctioned quarries than areas auctioned by the Industries Department. In Saidpur Khurd, the government has allowed mining on 11.60 acres. But miners are extracting minor minerals from 100 acres of land. This includes land owned by the Forest Department. Mining in forest land is banned.
Similarly, in Behlur Khurd, quarrying is allowed only on 9.84 acres of land, but the miners are extracting material from over 25 acres of land.
It is learnt that mining is allowed in 13 quarries, covering 115.97 acres.
As per the terms of the auction, the miners can lift 5,22,765 tonnes of riverbed material from these quarries avery year. But with an estimated 3,500 trucks (each truck ferrying 29 tonnes) carrying material daily, over one lakh tonnes of sand and gravel is being lifted from here everyday. This means almost 365 lakh tonnes of material is being lifted every year and over 360 lakh tonnes illegally.
Miners dig 10 ft to 12 ft deep trenches along the banks of the Sutlej
With hundreds of trucks ferrying sand and gravel quarried illegally, dhussi bundhs near Saidpur Kalan and Phul Makauri villages sink
Illegal mining at Phul Makauri, Saidpur Kalan and the riverbed near Niyamatpur and Shekhan Majara on
Miners target larger areas around legally auctioned quarries
In Saidpur Khurd, miners illegally extracting minor minerals from 100 acres of land
This includes land owned by the Forest Department. Mining on forest land is banned
The illegal slips, called the ‘jhhota parchi’, are used rampantly here to allow the movement of the trucks ferrying illegally mined sand and gravel. The legal slips are called ‘weighment slips’ and should mention the quarry from where the material has been mined. The illegal slips are called “stand slips”, and are given to truck drivers and checked by goons who then collect ‘royalty’ from the truck owners.
With mining in Haryana banned, Punjab is now the sole supplier of sand and gravel in the region. With major infrastructure and real estate projects coming up in the region, there is a high demand for construction material. The supply, however, is at an all-time low. The price of sand has zoomed to Rs 2,300 per 100 cubic ft.