BALASORE:The sand mafia from West Bengal again attempted to lift sand from Subarnarekha river bed using sump pumps on Sunday, barely days after the officials of both the States banned the illegal activities on either side of the border.
Tension prevailed in river side villages of Jaleswar block in Balasore district as locals protested lifting of sand by the Bengal mafia. The villagers alleged that mafia started lifting sand using sump pumps in Totapada, Munutunia and Beherasahi on Saturday. When the villagers opposed them, they were threatened with dire consequences. Use of sump pumps was also banned by both the States recently.
“We have informed the MLA, Collector and Raibania police about constant threats to our lives from mafia who have been targeting us for opposing their activities. Sand is being lifted through sump pumps which draw sand from 50 feet under the river,” said Radhashyam Sahu, a resident.
On July 7, the authorities of Balasore district and West Midnapore district of West Bengal held a discussion to solve the impasse over ban on illegal lifting of sand from Subarnarekha river bed that comes under Odisha jurisdiction.
It was decided that none can lift sand from either side of the river without permission of officials concerned and action would be initiated against those responsible for violating it. While use of sump pump was banned, Bengal authorities had assured to initiate police action if any one was found harassing the villagers.
The authorities of both the districts also agreed to write to their respective Governments for fresh demarcation of border to avoid such problem in future. As per 1938 map, the land belongs to West Bengal, while the map of 1942 shows that land from where sand is being mined falls in Odisha jurisdiction.
Balasore Collector Sanatan Mallik said the revenue officials and local police have been directed to maintain law and order. “I would take up the matter with our Midnapore counterparts and urge them to take legal action as assured. Such activities won’t be tolerated any more. I have also intimated senior revenue officials,” he added.
The mafia stopped movement of passenger boats at Mankidia and Kuanrpur ghats after the Balasore district administration with the help of villagers demolished at least 15 illegal sand quarries and seized sand lifting machines, nets and trucks on June 21.
A day after the surprise raid, prohibitory order under Section 144 of CrPC was also imposed along the river bank banning illegal sand lifting.