Looters of natural resources rarely come face to face with law enforcers mainly because they operate in locales tucked away from busy places. A serene riverside at the crack of dawn or whispering forests at dusk are just two of the many ideal settings that smugglers, illegal miners and poachers prefer to carry out their nefarious activities without any hindrance as rarely do a forest ranger or a police inspector or a revenue official materialise before them to check on what they are transporting.
But when a law enforcer makes that rare appearance before a lorry or a car carrying contraband goods, be it river sand or sandalwood or rice bags meant for distribution under the PDS, the criminals tasked with transporting the goods try to get away at any cost, even if it means running over the government appointed challenger. It has been happening at various places across India. The latest one was at Vellore, where a tractor carrying sand from the Kosasthaliyar riverbed in Purasai village mowed down a police constable on Sunday. In Tamil Nadu, the typical river sand mafioso is as irrepressible and diabolic as the forest brigands and rice smugglers.
In such a scenario, such elements can be crushed and the large-scale pilferage of natural resources stopped only if the civil society is in league with the law enforcing authorities. For that, governments should launch campaigns to create awareness among the local people on the environmental degradation and heavy loss to the exchequer brought about by illegal sand miners and other criminals preying on forest wealth. Not only are members of civil society expected to alert the law enforcing agencies about illegal activities in their midst, but also be part of a movement that does not allow smugglers a free run. We cannot expect a lone constable to take on a ruthless mafia. The collective will of the community is essential to foil the criminals.