Sand piled up along Subernarekha river at Kanderbera near Jamshedpur earlier this week. Picture by Animesh Sengupta
Ban or no ban, sand lifting continues unabated along the banks of Subernarekha and Kharkai in the twin districts of East Singhbhum and Seraikela-Kharsawan with the local monitoring authority and police failing to enforce a complete check.
Although Seraikela-Kharsawan police appear to have cracked down on the illegal trade, having confiscated eight earthmovers and 20 dumpers ever since the National Green Tribunal banned mining of sand from riverbeds without environmental clearance on August 5, there are pockets like Kanderbera village where the mafia continue to carry on their activities.
In East Singhbhum, Baridih and Govindpur localities of Jamshedpur are the blind spots.
According to sources, the mafia are using smaller vehicles like pickup vans for ferrying sand lifted from riverbanks to evade the eyes of the police as well as the mining officials.
“Every day, 400 truckloads of sand are supplied to Jamshedpur from Subernarekha along Kanderbera village. But the dealers are lifting sand at night since the past month. During daytime, they use small vehicles instead of trucks,” said Harpal Singh, a dhaba owner at Kanderbera.
However, Seraikela-Kharsawan SP Idrajit Mahatha said the district administration had set up a task force to stop illegal mining in the district, which was now focused on sand lifting.
“We are conducting raids even at night as we have information that the mafia are carrying out their activities under the cover of darkness,” Mahatha told The Telegraph.
Sources further said as many as six mafia groups were operating from Chandil and Jamshedpur.
A civil contractor, Dinesh Sharma, said: “Construction activities have been affected due to the recent ban on sand lifting. But it is true that the order has not been strictly implemented in Jamshedpur, partly because of the dilly-dally attitude of the district mining officer.”
He pointed out that sand sourced from Subernarekha banks in Baridih and Govindpur were supplied to construction sites in the steel city.
East Singhbhum SP (city) Kartik S. contradicted the claims, saying they were vigilant and were keeping an eye on ghats under their jurisdiction. “We are conducting raids at the ghats in Baridih, Govindpur, Baridih and Bagbera along Kharkai and Subernarekha. We will further intensify the operation,” he said.
Ratnesh Kumar Singh, district mining officer for both East Singhbhum and Seraikela-Kharsawan, maintained that sand lifting had almost stopped in Seraikela-Kharsawan.
“We are aware that the activity is on in some parts of Seraikela-Kharsawan and also along Kharkai and Subernarekha that pass through East Singhbhum. We have asked the police to conduct raids at the sand ghats and seize vehicles carrying illegally mined sand,” he said.
The mining officer added that they were expecting the situation to improve after the state government holds an auction for sand lifting, the process for which has already begun. “Once the auction — the first in Jharkhand — takes place and individuals are allotted riverbanks to lift sand in lieu of a fee, illegal mining will be automatically controlled,” Singh added.
What steps should police take to check illegal sand mining?