JAGATSINGHPUR: With the district administration turning a blind eye to rampant illegal sand mining, not only has river erosion posed a grave threat to the areas along the banks of Mahanadi but also people’s lives are in danger from the mafia.
The sand mafia continue to operate with such impunity that it did not spare a 70-year-old woman Sakhi Behera of Jaisankhpur village within Kujang police limits on Friday. The woman had been protesting illegal lifting of sand and was attacked by the mafia. She sustained critical injuries in the attack and was admitted to SCB Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack.
Sources said Sakhi was assaulted by one Lokanath Behera who has been carrying out illegal sand mining in the area allegedly in connivance with Zillanasi sarpanch Pramod Swain. On Saturday, the victim’s son Bipin Kumar Mohapatra lodged an FIR with Kujang police station against Behera, Swain, a few local lady ward members and their husbands. He also accused them of levelling anti-dalit remarks against his mother.
However, refuting the charge, Swain said a few beneficiaries of Indira Awas Yojana have been lifting sand from the river bed for construction of their houses. He said some people have been protesting this and this resulted in the altercation. Kujang IIC Dillip Kumar Sahoo said as per the FIR lodged by Mohapatra, a case has been registered against Swain and others. The matter is under investigation.
Sources said Mahanadi is silently being robbed off its sand right under the nose of the administration, elected representatives including sarpanchs and ward members. Tractors, JCBs, haiwas and even cranes are used to lift several truckloads of sand from the river bed every day. Residents of a few villages of Kujang block are in panic as their homestead and arable land are under threat due to river erosion. Deep digging and drilling leads to formation of ponds which has enhanced risk of the river changing its course during floods.