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Vigil on riverbank, sand thieves flee

Daylight robbery of golden river sand has been arrested in Jamshedpur. Hopefully, for a long time if not forever.

Not a single commercial vehicle, against the regular six dozen, was spotted anywhere near Subernarekha’s Gandhi Ghat in Sakchi on Thursday as the East Singhbhum mining mandarins rolled out a two-member team to monitor and save the riverbed from being maimed by unscrupulous contractors.

The action follows a report in The Telegraph, published on Wednesday, that highlighted how lack of proper vigil was helping the sand mafia blatantly violate the National Green Tribunal and Supreme Court ban on rampant mining of minor minerals.

Until now, pilfering of river sand had been continuing unabated on the banks of Subernarekha, barely a kilometre from the district collectorate, and there was none to stop the thieves.

District mining officer Ratnesh Kumar Singh conceded that he acted on the basis of reports published in a section of the media. A team, led by mining inspector Niranjan Prasad, visited Gandhi Ghat on Wednesday evening and warned truck drivers against lifting sand without environmental clearance in the future.

“I have asked the team to remain mobile. It will do the rounds of various ghats at frequent intervals and seize vehicles and consignments with the help of police. The team will report to me directly and on a daily basis,” Singh told The Telegraph on Thursday.

The mining officer pointed out that according to provisions of the Mines and Mineral Act, they could seize trucks and consignments, and lodge a prosecution case in the court of the chief judicial magistrate. The vehicle in question will have to be handed over to the local thana.

SSP Amol V. Homkar said they were ready to provide extra cover to the two-member mining team if and when needed during raids on sand ghats. “Police stations have been asked to extend full co-operation to the vigil squad,” he added.

Environmentalist K.K. Sharma welcomed the district mining department’s move, but expressed scepticism too.

“The team is vigilant during daytime, but I doubt it will remain active at night too. It also remains to be seen how long the mining department can sustain its crackdown on rogue contractors who will definitely try to grease palms. River sand is extremely useful in construction work, especially in plastering. Hence, the sand mafia will try every trick in the book to carry on with illegal mining,” he said.

Rampant sand lifting creates large pits and fissures on the earth’s surface. At times, mining can extend so deep that it affects groundwater, springs, underground wells and the water table.


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