VELLORE: Villagers in the vicinity of the three authorised stone quarries operating in Perumugai for over 20 years now, allege that tonnes of gravel and red sand are being dug up and smuggled out from the hills here under the guise of transporting granite stones.
This plundering of natural resources has been going on for several years, they claimed and demanded a thorough probe by a high-level committee. As per rules, permission has to be obtained from the Mines Department to take gravel from the site of a stone quarry and if permitted, quarry operators may have to make a payment for the same.
“Gravel and red sand are in high demand for road-laying works and construction purposes. Quarry contractors illegally smuggle the gravel on the pretext of transporting granite from the sites,” said a retired government staffer in the village, adding that more than 50 loads of gravel and red sand were being smuggled out of the village everyday.
According to him, one unit of gravel mixed with red sand is being sold for Rs 1,200. Six-wheeler trucks carry six units of this mineral in a single trip, while 12-wheeler lorries carry up to 10 units. “Gravel dug up from the hills is being used for road work on NH 46. The person who took the tenders to run the quarries paid around Rs 1.50 crore to the panchayat in the last 15 years. This caused a loss of not less than Rs 1,000 crore during the period, to the State exchequer. A detailed probe will definitely unearth a mining scam similar to the one in Madurai,” said a source in the village panchayat.
Villagers alleged panchayat representatives and politicians were directly involved in the illegal activity. Though officials are aware of the illegal quarrying of the natural resource, they continue to remain mute spectators. Quarry contractors, backed by politicians, have even issued death threats to anyone raising the issue.
Despite this, the villagers claimed they have submitted at least 40 petitions to the District Collector, the Chief Minister’s Cell and other officials, seeking to restrain the smuggling.
However, no action has been taken so far.
Moreover, the narrow panchayat road being used as a thoroughfare to reach NH 46 by heavy vehicles transporting minerals from the stone quarries, is also being used by students of the Government Higher Secondary School which is accessible through the road. “It is risky for our students to walk along the road as heavy vehicles ply throughout the day. These vehicles are driven in a rash manner. We have taken up this issue with the senior officials of the Education Department, but no action has been taken to restrict the movement of the heavy vehicles,” said a teacher of the school.
District Collector R Nanthagopal gave an assurance that he would direct authorities to look into the issue.