Haven For Sand Mafia

“It is not at all safe to go there,” warns a journalist who works with a regional newspaper. “Last time when I went there, the goons pointed a gun at me. Because of the ongoing trouble, these men have been ordered to simply kill and bury suspicious people. I asked the officer-in-charge of the local police station to send some officers with us, but he refused.” An activist protesting illegal sand mining in Noida, Mangeram, was shot dead on July 31 by sand mafia in Sector 39 of Noida. Mangeram had filed a complaint against members of sand mafia a few days before… Around three years ago, the mining mafia had fired at the then SDM Vishal Singh who had escaped unhurt as the bullet had misfired. Five months ago, the mafia had fired shots at mining officer Ashish Kumar. He had a narrow escape…


haven-for-sand-mafiaAbout seven to eight kilometers from Kadilpur and just opposite Gautam Buddha University in Noida on the highway, a road leads to Gharbara. The place is known as the haven for illegal sand miners. An elevated road (pushta) runs almost parallel to the Yamuna. At the mouth of the narrow kuccha roads that join the main pushta along the river stand groups of six to seven men armed with country pistols and lathis. They keep an eye on each and every outsider who walks on the pushta.
“It is not at all safe to go there,” warns a journalist who works with a regional newspaper. “Last time when I went there, the goons pointed a gun at me. Because of the ongoing trouble, these men have been ordered to simply kill and bury suspicious people. I asked the officer-in-charge of the local police station to send some officers with us, but he refused.” An activist protesting illegal sand mining in Noida, Mangeram, was shot dead on July 31 by sand mafia in Sector 39 of Noida. Mangeram had filed a complaint against members of sand mafia a few days before. Around three years ago, the mining mafia had fired at the then SDM Vishal Singh who had escaped unhurt as the bullet had misfired. Five months ago, the mafia had fired shots at mining officer Ashish Kumar. He had a narrow escape.
IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal is known to have fearlessly taken action against the mafia. Between February and July 24 this year, officials under the supervision of Nagpal seized 274 dumpers carrying illegally mined sand. Her operation against illegal mining had gained momentum towards the end of July. Between July 18 and 24, about 40 vehicles, such as dumpers, tractors and trolleys, were seized. Some of these vehicles belonged to powerful politicians who backed the mining mafia.
According to an official of the mining department, 66 FIRs were lodged in the past six months and 104 people were arrested. Total 81 machines involved in illegal mining, including cars, two-wheelers, earth movers and trucks, were seized. Nagpal collected fines to the tune of Rs. 54,30,000 from illegal miners from February to July. She had reportedly put together various groups that conducted frequent raids day and night in areas where illegal mining was rampant. On July 25, mining officer Ashish Kumar who assisted Nagpal in these raids was transferred to Bulandshahr. Three days later, Nagpal was suspended.
“The mining has stopped for now,” says Lalu, a resident from Atta Gujran village. “Not because of Nagpal but because most of the places from where miners were digging sand were inundated after the water level of the Yamuna rose in the last week of June.”
However, four to five km towards from the river from the main pushta, tractor tracks in the soft mud seem fresh. Mining is still going on discretely. Atta Gujran village on the banks of the Yamuna serves as what the miners call “stock”. The mined sand from the riverbed is bought to the village where it is collected for a day or two. From here the sand is transported to other places. Hundreds of lorries and trolleys filled with fresh sand with water dripping can be seen parked in the village.
“The owners of the fields near the river are mostly from Haryana. They take Rs. 600 for trolley full of sand mined near their field,” says Lalu. Lalu further adds that it is because of sand mining that a proposed bridge across the Yamuna, connecting Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, is yet to be completed. The bridge was supposed to be constructed 10 years ago. Though the foundation stone for the bridge had been laid several times in Haryana, the work has still not begun. “Once the bridge connects the two sides, the miners from Haryana would pay the field owners, also from Haryana, money for the sand. They would extract the maximum and the lobby operating this side would suffer losses,” says Lalu. Several people in Atta Gujran have relatives in Ghorasan and Gharora in Haryana but in the absence of the bridge, they have to travel 60 kmd extra.
– Extracted from DTE

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