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How illegal mining has become the biggest bane for Amarinder govt in Punjab

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 22 June 2018, 23:18 IST
(Arya Sharma)


The continuing menace of illegal mining is proving to be the biggest bane of the Congress government led by Captain Amarinder Singh in Punjab. The recent developments point towards complete lawlessness that prevails in areas where illegal mining continues with impunity. Things reached a pinnacle with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA from Ropar Amarjit Singh Sandoa being attacked along with his gunmen and personal assistant by around a dozen men during a visit to an 'illegal' mining site near Baihara village on Thursday. Sandoa had to be shifted to the Post Graduate Institute of Medical and Education Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh.

This attack followed an assault on two forest department officials by the sand mafia barely two days ago. The mafia goons attacked block forest range officer Devinder Singh and forest guard Karnail Singh near Seonk village in Kharar on the periphery of Chandigarh on Monday night. Devinder was critically injured in the attack.

In the case regarding the attack on AAP MLA, the main accused Ajvinder Singh has reportedly accused Sandoa of seeking graft. Whatever the case, the fact remains that those indulging in illegal mining stand emboldened and give two hoots to the state and its law and order machinery.

These developments are a sad commentary on the state of affairs prevailing in Punjab. They reflect the government in a poor light and a large number of people are now saying that nothing has changed with regards to the sand mafia and things continue to be as bad as they were under the previous Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) – Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime.

Abolishing the sand mining mafia was one of the key promises that Amarinder had made to the people of the state in the run up to the Punjab assembly polls of 2017. But the message that is going out is that there is nothing called governance when it comes to dealing with the sand mafia.

It was in March this year that Amarinder made headlines having had a first hand view of the illegal mining going on the banks of Satluj river while he was traveling by a chopper drawing smirk and sarcasm from the Opposition, political observers and the common people as they had been raising a noise on the menace for several months and the government had not bothered to do anything about it. Amarinder had ordered an immediate crackdown ordering a vigilance probe into the alleged nexus between top officials and the illegal mining mafia.

He had asked the police and administrative heads in the districts to expand the ambit of their investigations to cover the owners and actual bidders of the mines, as well as the owners of the equipment used in cases of illegal mining. Instructing the officials not to brook any political interference Amarinder had said they should catch the owners and the bidders and not confine the action in illegal mining cases to merely the small fry, such as contractors and drivers. He had also announced the government’s decision to depute one Guardian of Governance (Rakha) at each mining site as a step towards curbing illegal mining.

The officials too had come out with various suggestions to streamline and strengthen the mining processes. These included GPS tracking of the tippers, scientific demarcation of the mining sites with proper coordinates, besides installation of WiFi enabled CCTVs at all sensitive check points for monitoring the movement of the vehicles. Whatever happened to all these orders and suggestions. The result is for all to see in what has happened in the last five days.

Following the assault on Sandoa, the chief minister has sought a detailed report and once again reiterated that lawlessness would not be tolerated under any circumstances. He has asked the Deputy Commissioner of the district to ensure a free and fair probe. He has asked the asked the state police chief Suresh Arora to crack down on the suspects and ensure their immediate arrest. The security personnel attached to the MLA have also come under Amarinder's scanner for evidently failing to protect him.

Meanwhile, the Akalis while condemning the attack on Sandoa have demanded a judicial inquiry to understand the reason for the attack as videographic evidence from the site allegedly indicated that the attackers were AAP supporters who were protesting against forced extortion from the AAP legislator.

SAD leader Dr Daljit Singh Cheema said any incident of violence against an elected representative is condemnable, but there should be a judicial inquiry into the incident as there was a visible protest from those indulging in sand mining that the MLA was continuously extorting money from them. “These persons have openly accused the MLA of asking for Rs 5 to Rs 10 lakh off and on while attacking him and thrashing his security personnel. These allegations are very serious in nature and should be verified immediately,” he added.

AAP leadership has alleged that the attack shows that there is nothing called rule of law in Punjab. Party's co-president in Punjab Dr Balbir Singh said illegal mining was being carried at the site despite AAP leadership having got the activity canceled by the administration. He has announced a series of protests on the issue in the days to come.

Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Sukhpal Singh Khaira said that the illegal mining in the state continues under the patronage of the state government and ministers and officials are involved in it. He later took twitter to carry his assault further. In one of his tweets he said, “While i strongly condemn the attack on Mla Ropar by mining mafia,it belies the claims of @capt_amarinder that there’s no illegal mining in PB! It’s also a litmus test of Cm whether he acts only to save Youth Cong leaders or can he ensure justice to Opposition n aam aadmi-khaira.”

The general perception is that the sand mines are gold mines for politicians who make a quick buck from illegal sand mining. The Congress has failed to learn its lessons. It had suffered a major set back in January when Amarinder had to get his close confidant Rana Gurjit to put in his papers as power and irrigation minister eight months after his name figured in a sand mining scam.

The government had recently junked a mining policy, prepared by local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and instead asked the mining and geology minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria with framing the new policy. The 'foolproof' policy framed by Sidhu was on the lines of one being implemented in Telangana.

Politically speaking, the Congress government under Amarinder cannot afford the lawlessness to continue in the poll year. It will have to convey to the people that is different from the previous regime and is keen to establish the rule of law. Above all it has to convey a seriousness for governance.


First published: 22 June 2018, 23:18 IST