Unsustainable sand mining practices are rampant in India. Despite a set of guidelines in 2016 to curb the practice, illegal and unsustainable sand mining has continued to be common, spurring the Indian government to take another step toward enforcing rules. The environment ministry has now come out with 'Enforcement & Monitoring guidelines for Sand Mining' to regulate sand mining and check illegal mining.
This is a matter of grave concern that the hon'ble #SupremeCourt has directed #Rajasthan government to stop illegal mining in #Aravalli hills within 48 hours. SC's remark that it was compelled to pass the order because Rajasthan has taken the issue “very lightly”, is very serious— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) October 23, 2018
Sand is precious to the real estate industry and the mafia is known to ravage riverbeds and land with heavy equipment to dredge up tonnes of earth and sell it at steep discounts to builders.
The illegal mining industry in Uttar Pradesh's Banda and Hamirpur district is not very old today; let us tell you that in the year 2017 and early 2018 in Uttar Pradesh, sand mafia in association with local leaders and farmers carried out illegal mining activity.
Apart from this, various media organizations have conducted several sting operations against these sand mafias and tried to expose them. One such sting operation was conducted by Power Corridors team in Hamirpur and Banda district of Uttar Pradesh where Nitesh Singh and Vikram Verma, residents of Nashik came in contact with the editor of the team and they told us that they belong to Nashik. Both managed to convince our team that they were victims of this system, whose lakhs of rupees were cheated by the officials in the name of bribe, and they have strong evidence against the mafias and they can help our team in the sting. Based on the information provided by the two, our team started conducting a sting operation but found out that they were also involved in this illegal crime where within a few months, with the help of administration, they managed to make crores by misusing the land of innocent farmers.
In 1st crackdown on sand mafia in UP, CCTV cameras to be installed at state borders https://t.co/12lNTA0dPt— TOI Cities (@TOICitiesNews) August 16, 2017
The local authority was also informed about the sting operation, after which the CBI raided in November 2019 and arrested several sand mafias.
We went there to cover about sand mafia. We had information that police takes money from them. They beat me because they were paranoid that we were going to expose them: Shiv Kumar Samadhiya, Journalist on getting beaten up by police for covering about sand mafia in Bhind, MP. pic.twitter.com/ItKiVphuGl— ANI (@ANI) June 6, 2018
After getting to know the reality we exposed them but then their true colours came out and both Nitesh Singh and Vikram Verma started blackmailing our Editor and tried to defame and started giving death threats to our team on various platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Email. But being a responsible part of the society, we need to show the truth to the people so we keep exposing such criminal activities through our various platforms. Due to various stings like these, where on the one hand the government has been benefited by crores of rupees, there has been a huge loss to the sand mafia and they feel insecure and are ready to commit any illegal crime.
The illegal sand mining industry in the entire country is in the hands of the mafia and criminal elements and whenever honest officers and employees campaign against the sand mafia, killing them getting them transferred is common for the mafia.
Shiromani Akali Dal condemns the attack on tipper driver who raised his voice against the goonda tax and was thrashed by the goons of the sand mafia. When will CM @capt_amarinder wake up from his deep slumber to take a call on the sand mafia calling the shots in the state? pic.twitter.com/pUOOoULR4e— Shiromani Akali Dal (@Akali_Dal_) January 20, 2020
During the sting operation, many farmers had also informed our team that how much illegal mining is happening in their fields, their crops and their fields suffer so much damage and due to this.
There is no one to take action against these sand mafias and this illegal industry is still running indiscriminately. People who come forward and show courage to oppose this crime are often given death threats to shut their mouths or often killed if they still do so. Such courage in the mafia comes from a well-known relationship with the politicians, corrupt officials and criminal elements.
These mafia dons not only use muscle and money power to grab mining tenders but also provide arms and ammunition to gangs involved in illegal quarrying. In Hamirpur district, the mafia have constructed private roads and bridges to transport sand from Betwa near Beri, Jalalpur, Indrapuri, Chandaur and Jigni villages. Agricultural land has been usurped and sand-laden trucks frequently move through the fields.
It is not only up to us or some media organizations like ours to keep exposing these criminals but also the government needs to come forward and take strict actions against people like Nitesh and Vikram. Only strict implementation of laws, introduction of state-level policies, and encouragement of artificial sand usage in construction, can stop the irreversible scarring of India’s rivers and beaches and protect its ecological health.