THOOTHUKUDI: With the authorities being busy in managing the lockdown, the sand mafia has stepped up its activities to rob the rivers. Illegal sand mining is rampant in the private lands on the bank of river Vaipar.
The locals alleged that the sand mafia, with the help of local politicians, revenue and police officials, have been quarrying river sand and stashing it at Navalakkanpatti near Ettayapuram. Despite repeated petitions from various political parties and the public, the district administration turned a blind eye to the issue, they claimed.
Around a year ago, illegal sand mining was carried out at Keelnattukurichi and Pallakulam, located on the northern bank of Vaippar, on the pretext of taking Savudu (Alluvium) from a private agricultural land. The act came to an end following a ban order dated August 28, 2019, issued to all districts under the jurisdiction of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. However, the sand mining began again in May this year claiming that licence was provided to a private land owner to transport sand, said sources.
Collector Sandeep Nanduri told TNIE that no such permission was given for quarrying sand in private lands.
A social activist said that miners have been quarrying round the clock, violating the norms that allow quarrying between 7 am and 6 pm.
Residents say at least 200 loads of sand is being dispatched every day from private lands of Keelnattukurichi and Pallakulam. The sand are being stashed at Navalakkanpatti village, four kilometre from east Ettayapuram, they added.
A farmer said that the mining stopped for two days after a complaint from the public, but resumed after a few days. A villager from Keelnattukurichi, wishing anonymity, said that the mafia have deployed henchmen to stop the public and media persons entering the spot. The sand mafia uses fake transit pass to escape policemen at checkpost, the villager added.
Keelnattukurichi Panchayat President Murugan seconded the allegations. However, he is yet to visit the site. Meanwhile, BJP cadre and functionaries staged a protest condemning the illegal sand mining at Vilathikulam on Tuesday.
The collector said based on the complaints, a few lorries have been seized. "Besides, we are keeping a tab on the illegal miners and will take action accordingly, he assured.