Lawlessness in UP: Sand mafias thrive without shroud of fear

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Illegal mining is being practiced in entire UP along the riverbeds due to constant demand for sand.
In yet another example of lawlessness in Uttar Pradesh and brazenness of sand mafias under the Akhilesh Yadav Government, a 25-year-old activist was mowed down by criminals for opposing illegal mining in Greater Noida.

Sandeep, a resident of Badauli Village, who had been opposing illegal sand mining in the region and had also exposed the nexus between the mining mafia and the local cops, was threatened by the goons earlier.

He was informed about illegal sand mining in the area along the Yamuna River on Monday night and rushed to the spot to stop some vehicles carrying sand which were heading towards the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway. It was then, when one of the dumpers moved over him, killing him on the spot.

Why is illegal sand mining prevalent in UP?

The practice of illegal mining is common in the entire state of Uttar Pradesh along the riverbeds as there is constant demand for sand. Due to increasing demand for sand by realtors, operating in the Noida, Greater Noida and Ghaziabad areas, the seemingly unceasing mining operation on the Yamuna and Hindon riverbeds is encouraged in western Uttar Pradesh.

Illegal mining is being practiced in entire UP due to rising demand for sand

The builders in the region are always on the lookout for cheap sand which comes from a mafia that illegally mines the riverbed of Hindon, Yamuna and Ganga -- by evading royalty.

A licensed operator, after paying royalty to the state, sells sand at a higher price: about Rs 20,000 per dumper. The illegal miner sells the same quantity of sand for Rs 8,000 to the transporters, who charge Rs 10,000 from the realtors.

How are they flourishing?

Now a larger question arises: how sand mafia is thriving in the State and why no restriction is being put on them. Social activists have constantly alleged that all this happens due to the nexus between UP Government and the mafias. Besides some known companies, local Samajwadi Party leaders are involved in the digging of sand from the riverbed, activists claim.

What is more disturbing is the fact that successive Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party governments in the state in the past 15 years have not bothered to restrain the sand mafia.

Criminals apparently enjoying political clout operate openly. Sidelining all environment assessment norms, licences were issued indiscriminately, some activists said. 

Governments have also tied the hands of bureaucrats whenever they tried to crack the whip on mafias. Who might have forgotten the case of woman IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal, suspended by the Akhilesh Yadav Government last year, for clamping down on illegal mining in Noida-Greater Noida.

Cases in the past:

The 2009-batch IAS officer posted as Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of Gautam Budh Nagar in September last year, was suspended barely 10 months after she got her first posting in the state.

Nagpal had led a crackdown on unauthorised mining in the district and got over two dozen FIRs registered against those involved in illegally removing sand. Though UP government kept on insisting that action was not taken against Nagpal because of sand mining but because she ordered the demolition of a wall of a mosque, but later succumbed to political and public pressure and later posted her as joint magistrate of Kanpur.

A Feb 27, 2012, order of the Supreme Court had directed states to grant leases for mining of minor minerals, including their renewal, even in a less than five hectares area only after getting environmental clearances from the Ministry of Environment and Forest, activist Akash Vashishtha was once quoted as saying.

"While almost all the terms and conditions of mining leases have been flouted by the miners, the mining is carried out blatantly in some of the most ecologically sensitive zones of the rivers in utter violation of the court orders and environment impact assessment norms," Vashishtha had said.

Social activist and farmer leader Dushyant Nagar, who had tipped the administration several times on illegal miners, had once told sources, "It is not only the sand mining mafia that is behind SDM Nagpal's suspension. The builders' lobby too has a strong hand in the episode. In fact, they have a greater role."

Sandeep and Nagpal were not the only ones who paid the price of challenging sand mafias, a Noida-based anti-mining activist, Pale Singh Chauhan, was killed for raising his voice against unbridled mining last year.

Barely two months back, Balraj Nagar, a resident of Jaganpur village in Greater Noida, was attacked when a group of illegal miners saw him approaching towards them. Nagar fortunately escaped unhurt, police said.

Despite several complaints, the State Government has not come up with a concrete plan to curb the problem of illegal sand mining. It not only poses huge loss to the state exchequer but also an environmental hazard.

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