Raids on illegal sand and coal mining gain pace
Police are cracking down on sand and coal smugglers before chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s scheduled inauguration of an industrial unit in West Burdwan’s Panagarh on Wednesday.
Sand smuggling kingpin Sujay Pal a.k.a. Kebu was arrested on August 25 from Durgapur. Between then and Monday, police have arrested three dozen sand smugglers and seized over 10,000 cubic feet of sand mined illegally from Damodar and Ajay rivers from across West Burdwan.
Two dozen trucks with smuggled sand have been seized from across the district. Around 20 tonnes of smuggled coal were also seized at Salanpur near Asansol.
Police said they had set up a joint action team comprising police from West and East Burdwan, Bankura, Purulia, Birbhum and Hooghly where sand smuggling is rampant. The teams are holding raids at Damodar, Ajay, Bhagirathi and other river banks. “Large police contingents are posted where we received complaints of illegal sand mining. We are also keeping vigil on highways to catch trucks with smuggled sand and coal,” said a police officer at the Asansol-Durgapur commissionerate.
Sources said Mamata had issued a stern message to stop illegal coal and sand mining. Allegations of involvement of some Trinamul leaders in sand and coal smuggling had prompted Opposition parties to attack her party in the run-up to the Assembly polls this year. “Police chiefs of West Burdwan, Purulia, Bankura and Birbhum were specially alerted from Nabanna to stop coal and sand smuggling” said a police officer.
The ADG (law and order) on August 18 instructed police chiefs of all districts and commissionerates for daily raids against illegal sand and coal mining and daily updates to Nabanna. Sources said when the ADG’s instruction was not obeyed properly, the chief minister stepped in to crack the whip.
Asansol-Durgapur police commissioner Ajay Thakur was “unexpectedly” transferred to Barrackpore commissionerate on August 27 within three months of his posting in Asansol. He was replaced by Sudhir Kumar Neelakantam. Sources said the sudden transfer was linked to growing sand pilferage in West Burdwan though officials termed it routine.