Mukerian (Punjab): Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal today asked Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh and Mining department minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria to disclose which rules permitted excavations up to 200 feet to extract sand, adding land along several villages in this constituency had been ravaged by the sand mafia in active connivance with the district police and mining department.
Walking for kilometers around Dhamian, Sandhwal and Bringali villages after the mining mafia dug in trenches to restrict the movement of vehicles; Sukhbir Badal said “such kind of tactics cannot stop the SAD from exposing the mining mafia whose tentacles reach up to the chief minister as well as the All Indian Congress Committee (AICC)”.
He disclosed that even though more than ten villages had been ravaged by the mafia here, the government was least concerned.
“Even today the local police facilitated the illegal miners by informing them about the visit in advance so that they could flee from the spot. The mafia is so brazen that they dug trenches to ensure we could not reach the spot where illegal mining was being done. They even tried to prevent out exit from the area by digging up the kutcha road,” he said.
The SAD President said it was shocking that even though rules permitted excavation till ten feet, the sand mafia had done excavations till 200 feet which had even resulted in the formation of a lake in the area with ground water seeping up.
NGOs and villagers who collected at the spot disclosed that the illegal mining was being done by Congress legislator Darshan Brar’s son Gurjant Singh with the active connivance of local legislator Indu Bala and the police and mining departments. They even mentioned that SSP Navjot Singh Mahal was providing protection to the mafia.
Interacting with Badal, Guru Nanak Welfare Society President Kirpal Singh Gera said the society had been complaining against the mafia since long but the local police and civil administration had refused to take action against any complaint of illegal mining. Others on the spot disclosed that their land had been destroyed due to illegal mining and that even kutcha roads which helped in movement from one village to another had been obliterated. One complainant Bibi Surinder Kaur disclosed that her 25 acres of land had been excavated illegally by the mafia.
Local truckers as well as those who operate in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh also reached the spot and complained that the mafia was charging ‘goonda tax’ from them. Operators from Himachal said despite the fact that this issue had been flagged by the Himachal chief minister no action had been taken on it and they continued to be charged goonda tax of Rs 10,000 per truck to get sand from Himachal into Punjab.
Meanwhile, Sukhbir Badal, who was accompanied by former minister Bikram Singh Majithia and youth leader Sarabjot Singh Sabi, said the SAD would continue to oppose the mafia and it would not be cowed down by registration of cases against its leaders.
He said when he had exposed illegal mining at Beas two days back Secretary; Mining Sarvjit Singh had tried to justify the activity. “I want to know if the Secretary as well as the mining department will justify excavations of as much as 200 feet”.
Stating that the Congress government had presided over a loot of more than Rs 1,000 crore in illegal sand mining alone, Badal said “once a SAD led government in formed in the State we will recover this amount and register cases against the guilty”