In Jajpur, revenue enforcement runs into the sand
In last four years, tehsildars of Jajpur, Dasarathapur, Binjharpur, Rasulpur and Dharmasala have come under attack from the illegal mining syndicate
JAJPUR: The sand mafia are having a free run and not even afraid to trample and threaten on duty tehsildars who take on illegal mining. Such is their audacity flowing from political patronage and nexus in Jajpur district.
There have been instances over the last four years where tehsildars of Jajpur, Dasarathapur, Binjharpur, Rasulpur and Dharmasala have come under attack from the illegal mining syndicate. The latest being last month when two tehsildars were assaulted and threatened. Abinash Biswajit Sethy, Dasarathpur tehsildar was almost run over by a sand laden tractor while tehsildar of Binjharpur Dipak Kumar Rout was threatened when he had gone on to check illegal mining.
The state government has framed Odisha Minor Mineral Concession (Amendment) Rules, 2018 for regulating mining activity of minor minerals. Besides, the district has formed its own task force consisting of revenue, police and forest officials to enforce against illegal mining of minor minerals. Still such mining continues unabated across the district.
The mining flourishes even as the state government loses revenue to the tune of over hundred of crores per annum due to illegal mining caring two hoots for environmental law and its impact on ecology. Sources said illegal sand mining has been going on unchecked on the river beds of Baitarani, Budha, Brahmani, Kharasrota, Kelua, Genguti and Jamuna rivers in nine tehsils of the districts. Over 200 sand blocks have been identified in those rivers as illegal.
“The sand mafia operate using modern machineries which is against principles of mining. Besides, they are carrying out mining activities near human habitations, heritage sites, monuments, public infrastructure facilities and even schools which are strictly prohibited by the law. Most importantly, they mine sand at night which is prohibited by the government policy,” said Prasant Kumar, an environmentalist.
With sand becoming increasingly valuable with growing infrastructure and construction activities, the mafia rakes in the moolah. Official sources said there are 198 sand sairats (sources) in the district. Of them, 169 sand sairats have been auctioned by the district authorities. Seventy-one out of 169 sources are operational by the lessees while rest 98 are non-operational due to various issues like pending environmental clearance, consent to operation and court related cases.
Jajpur collector Chakravarti Singh Rathore said the district administration has taken strong and prompt actions and all the culprits have been arrested. “We have formed task force to enforce law in the river beds where illegal sand mining is carried out and the unit is on job. We feel the attack on revenue officials are reactions because task force hinders their nefarious activities,” he said.
Opposition sees a nexus of such mafia with ruling party. “It is obvious that sand mafia have close links with the people in power, police and revenue officials. The politicians, revenue officials and police help such operators escape and get away from all possible clutches of the legal system. Otherwise, they could not dare run their unlawful business so blatantly throwing all norms to the wind,” said Sudipta Kumar Panda, general secretary of BJP’s Jajpur district unit.Moreover, they run their business despite strong opposition from the local people across the district, he said.