Amid the war of words between the political rivals, some villagers claimed that excavation beyond the permissible limit in the area started during the previous SAD-BJP regime.
Continuing with his “surprise checks”, Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal Saturday reached Mukerian in Hoshiarpur where he alleged a large scale illegal sand mining was going on and accused the Congress government in state of turning a blind eye to the menace even as Cabinet Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria hit back terming the accusations as a desperate bid to gain the lost political ground.
Amid the war of words between the political rivals, some villagers claimed that excavation beyond the permissible limit in the area started during the previous SAD-BJP regime. They also questioned Sukhbir’s visit at a time when Assembly elections are due in state early next year.
Earlier, Sukhbir visuted some villages in Mukerian and claimed that a nexus between some officials and Congress leaders was responsible for the illegal mining.
He asked CM Capt Amarinder Singh and Mining Minister Sarkaria to disclose the rules that permitted excavations up to 200 feet to extract sand, adding that land along several villages in the constituency has been “ravaged” by the mafia in active connivance with police and officials.
The SAD president said it was shocking that even though rules permitted excavation till 10 feet, the sand mafia had done excavations till 200 feet, which had resulted in the formation of a lake in the area with ground water seeping up.
While walking around Dhamian, Sandhwal and Bringali villages, the former deputy chief minister alleged that the sand mafia dug up in trenches to restrict the movement of vehicles. “Such kind of tactics cannot stop the SAD from exposing them,” he said, adding even though more than 10 villages have been ravaged by the mafia here, the government is least concerned.
“Even today the local police facilitated illegal miners by informing them about the visit in advance so that they could flee. The mafia is so brazen that they dug up trenches to ensure we could not reach the spot where illegal mining was being done. They even tried to prevent our exit from the area by digging the ‘kutcha’ road,” he alleged.
‘Goonda tax on trucks’
He also alleged that “goonda tax” of Rs 10,000 per truck is being charged from local truckers as well as those who operate in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh by the mining mafia. Sukhbir alleged that the Congress government had “presided over” a loot of more than Rs 1,000 crore in illegal sand mining alone and said once his party is voted to power, they will recover this amount and register cases against the guilty.
“Walked several kms to see the extent to which illegal sand mining at Bringali village in Mukerian has ravaged the area. People told me the illegal mining was being done by Gurjant Brar s/o Cong MLA from Baghapurana Darshan Brar. Let’s see what @capt_amarinder has to say to this,” he later said in a tweet.
‘Problem not new’
Meanwhile, Kirpal Singh Gera, the president of Guru Nanak Welfare Society, an NGO, said they had been complaining against the mafia since long but the local police and civil administration have refused to take any action. One complainant, Bibi Surinder Kaur, claimed that her 25 acres of land had been excavated illegally by the mafia.
Some activists of Khanan Roko Zamin Bachao Sangharsh Committee, which has been working against the illegal mining for the past several years, alleged that the deep excavation in the area started during the SAD-BJP rule in 2014-15 and around 30 villages are affected badly. “Neither the SAD-BJP government nor the current Congress government paid any heed to it and now, ahead of elections, they have started making rounds of this area. Illegal mining is good for every party when they are in power and bad when they are in opposition and this game has been going on for a decade. They make it an election issue and then forget it after coming to power,” said a woman activist of Khanan Roko Committee.
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