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3 buried alive during sand mining

Illegal excavation makes riverbank precarious
The dry riverbed of the Balason where the three youths died at Matigara near Siliguri on Monday
The dry riverbed of the Balason where the three youths died at Matigara near Siliguri on Monday
Pictures by Passang Yolmo

Our Correspondent   |   Siliguri   |   Published 07.03.23, 04:05 AM

Three boys who were engaged in mining sand from the Balason were buried alive when a chunk of earth on the riverbank loosened and fell on the trio on the intervening night of Sunday and Monday. 

They were mining the sand illegally and caught napping when the riverbed became deep because of the constant excavation.  


The deceased were Monu Kumar (20), Samal Sahani (16) and Rohit Kumar (16). Barring Rohit, the other two were the residents of Tripalijote in the Matigara block of Siliguri subdivision.

Rohit was from Sitamari of Bihar and was staying with his grandfather at Tripalijote.  

Sources said the trio, along with neighbour Akash Sahani, had left their homes around 10pm on Sunday for the nearby Balason river. The quartet started extracting the sand from the dry riverbed and loading the same into a truck.    

As the four armed with shovels went on with the work, they were unaware that the riverbank attained a precarious height of 10 to 15 feet because of the continuous mining. 

“After a few hours, suddenly, a huge chunk of earth loosened on the riverbank and fell on us. I was behind the vehicle and could save my life. The other three were on the other side of the vehicle and buried under the earth,” said Sahani, a Class IX student.

He admitted that they all had gone for the illegal sand excavation for easy money to celebrate Holi. Usually, truck drivers pay around Rs 350 to each person for sand mining.

Dipnarayan, Samal’s father, was clueless about the incident.

“I had never allowed him to get into such work. But somehow, he went to the riverbed to load sand into a truck without informing us,” said the father.

The bodies of the three were extracted from the earth by local people. Matigara police reached the spot and started an investigation.   

Officials of the Matigara block administration said the mining was illegal. They said minor minerals like sand and stones were mined at 11 spots on the Balason river.

“In the past couple of years, restrictions were imposed on mining. We regularly conduct raids to prevent such illegal activities. Even then, some people try to collect sand and stones and engage a section of local boys for the purpose,” said an official.  

Later in the day, the Darjeeling district administration ordered a probe.

S. Ponnambalam, the district magistrate, said raids would be intensified during night hours. “The victims’ families will be provided with an ex-gratia of Rs two lakh each,” he said.

The administration, sources said, is planning to install gates at different locations to check the movement of trucks into the Balason riverbed.  

Gautam Deb, the mayor of Siliguri, also visited the spot and met the bereaved families.

“I met the parents and relatives of the deceased. The chief minister has expressed her condolences. I will talk to officials of the district administration and will send a report to the chief minister soon,” Deb said.

Rs 1-crore gold haul

Troops of 61 battalion of the BSF posted on the India-Bangladesh border in South Dinajpur district seized gold bars worth around Rs one crore on Monday.

BSF officers said they had intercepted Manjurul Sheikh, a 23-year-old youth from Haripokhar village of the district, while he was moving on a motorcycle.

“Altogether, 15 gold bars were concealed in his motorcycle. He was on his way to Trimohani (also in the same district) to deliver the gold,” said a source.

The cost of the gold smuggled from Bangladesh is Rs 98.75 lakh. He was handed over to the Customs department in Balurghat with the gold.

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