For past two years, large scale mechanized and illegal mining is happening in Yamuna River in Haryana state. The miners have created deep pits across the riverbed in Yamuna Nagar, Karnal, Panipat and Sonipat districts. Year 2019 has been a deficit monsoon year in Yamuna basin and the river had started shrinking unusually during October month. The rampant riverbed excavation has further robbed it of lean season flows. This detailed overview of river sand mining in Haryana in 2019 shows the severe impact of unsustainable and illegal mining practices on the river and villagers due to insensitive government and inefficient administration.
On February 25, the Yamuna Nagar district administration confirmed rampant illegal mining activities[I] in Bailgarh area. As per the mining department several stone crusher units were carrying out riverbed mining nonstop against permission to a few crushers. Local villagers also said that mining works was affecting irrigation channels and embankments and district administration officials were involved in illegal mining activities.
Even in Karnal district, villagers showed concerns over unsustainable riverbed mining activities creating flood threats during monsoon. On March 8, 2019, the villagers of Chandrav, Brij, Chauganv and Hansumajra even complained to the district administration[II] alleging involvement of government officials in facilitating illegal mining. The mining activities was creating huge pits in riverbed, weakening the embankment and damaging the village roads.
In the first week of April 2019, Sanjay Simberwal, assistant mining engineer, Mines and Geology (M&G) Department, Yamuna Nagar asked the Director of M&G at Chandigarh to allow them to conduct a drone survey[IV] of the entire mining areas of the district. During a field visit, he had observed that a large number of areas in and around the Yamuna were affected by illegal excavation of boulder, gravel and sand, especially in Tajewala and Bailgarh villages. He feared that the embankment was severely affected and could breach during the monsoon.
Informing the director, he also said that a large number of screening plants were installed along the banks of the Yamuna and their operation needed to be stopped because they were reported to be involved in the unauthorised purchase of raw mineral, boulder, gravel and sand.
Haridev Kamboj, executive engineer, water services division, Dadupur, Irrigation and Water Resources Department (IWRD), and Sanjay Simberwal, on April 12 also requested Kuldeep Singh, SP, Yamuna Nagar, to set up a police post at Tajewala village to keep a check on illegal mining in the area. As per the report the mining mafia had damaged a large portion of “Right Lower Downstream Stream Embankment” (RLDSE) of the Yamuna in Tajewala carrying out illegal mining along this embankment.
The mining mafia had illegally excavated[V] about 50 acres in Tajewala village and sold material worth around Rs155 crore, causing revenue loss of around Rs 21 crore to the exchequer. The damage caused to the fragile eco-system was yet to be estimated.
The mining mafia had also damaged a large section[VI] of the RLDSE along the Yamuna at Tajewala village by carrying out illegal digging up to 50 feet deep along the embankment. The illegal mining was posing a threat of breach in the RLDSE and Hathni Kund Barrage (HKB) during rainy season besides impacting the local environment and social life of villagers in the area. Sensing the gravity of the situation, an officer of the IWRD of Yamuna Nagar district wrote to the higher authorities demanding a blanket ban on mining activity in the area.
The RLDSE was constructed on the right bank of the Yamuna close to old Tajewala Barrage to protect villages from flooding. The bed level of the Yamuna was around 35 feet deep from the upper end of the RLDSE. However, the depth of its other side had gone down to around 50 feet due to illegal mining along the RLDSE, posing a strong threat of breach.
Besides, the mining mafia had carried out illegal mining on hundreds of acres close to RLDSE in connivance with landowners. The involvement of authorities of irrigation, mining and other departments could not be ruled out. The RLDSE area falls under the Water Services Division, Dadupur.
The mining mafia had reportedly carried out excessive illegal mining[VII] in the bed of the Yamuna in Tajewala village, making the riverbed level lower in Haryana than in Uttar Pradesh. The 19,600-foot-long RLDSE, constructed close to the old Tajewala head works, was repaired at a cost of Rs 3398.43 lakh between 2011 and 2013.
On April 11, the local administration conducted a joint inspection[VIII] of the RLDSE. Following this, the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) decided to close down all 14 crushing and screening plants operating close to the RLDSE. The regional officer of the SPCB, Yamuna Nagar, had recommended the closure of eight illegal screening plants to the higher authorities on January 25, 2019.
As per the Gazette notification of D&G, dated June 20, 2012, no mining was permissible in an area up to a width of 500 m from the active edge of the Yamuna embankment. As per official, illegal mining had posed a threat to the RLDSE and it even could damage the HKB and wreak havoc on villages in the rainy season. In 2016 also, HKB had faced similar threats[IX] due to large scale unsustainable mining in the area.
Alarmed, the Punjab and Haryana High Court (HC) directed[X] the Government to take action against the officials concerned. Notably, in past nine years while 487 criminal cases were registered for a breach of the Mines and Minerals Act, 1957, in Yamuna Nagar district, conviction was recorded in mere six cases.
On the other hand in Sonipat, following a plea alleging erosion of the Yamuna floodplain due to movement of heavy vehicles, the NGT on April 9 constituted a committee[XI] comprising of Principal Secretary of IWRD, Member Secretary of the SPCB and Director of M&G Department. The plea had claimed that the policy of permitting heavy vehicles on the embankments of the river was “destructing the ecology.” It also stated that at the behest of mining companies, the Irrigation Department and concerned officials were not taking remedial action and permitting heavily loaded trucks to operate in the embankments of the river.
Back in Yamuna Nagar, the IWRD officials on May 6, filed an FIR[XII] against unknown persons for allegedly obstructing government work when the officials had gone to dismantle some illegal bridges developed by miners on the Yamuna riverbed for extracting minerals. The incident had occurred on April 25 following which Radaur SDO Jaswinder Singh filed a complaint with the district police.
At that time, some major violations of National Green Tribunal (NGT) guidelines and Punjab and Haryana HC orders came to the light when five makeshift passages were found at different places across Yamuna river in the district. A resident of Yamuna Nagar had filed a civil writ petition in the HC in 2018 against the illegal makeshift passages developed by the mining mafia.
The IWRD came to know about the petition, they removed the makeshift passages and same was told to the court on January 10, 2019. A local commissioner was also appointed by the court to ascertain whether the passage had been removed or not. But after sometime, another makeshift passage was developed at Bibipur, Kanhera, Kanalsi, Mandauli, and Pobari villages obstructed the natural water flow of Yamuna.
As per May 12 report, Nirmal Kumar Kashyap, Regional Officer (RO), SPCB, Yamuna Nagar, issued a show-cause notice[XIII] to the executive engineer, Water Services Division, Jagadhri, in connection with the illegal makeshift passages and bunds found constructed across the Yamuna at several places in Yamuna Nagar district.
On May 4, Kuldeep Singh, SP, Yamuna Nagar a team of local officials of the IWRD and the SPCB had visited several villages to inspect makeshift passages and bunds constructed illegally across the Yamuna. The team found illegal makeshift passages in Jathlana, Pobari, Bibipur, Kanalsi and Mandauli villages and bunds in Gumthala, Nagli, Pobari and some other villages that were creating an obstruction (blockage) in the Yamuna mainstream. After the visit, the RO, SPCB issued the show-cause notice on May 6. The district administration on May 7 destroyed four of the five makeshift passages[XIV] built across the Yamuna at different places in the district.
Later, the district administration destroyed one of the five makeshift passages[XV] constructed across the Yamuna. The make shift passages and bunds were built to facilitate mining operations by the contractors in gross violation of NGT guidelines and Punjab and Haryana HC rules posing a threat of diversion[XVI] of the Yamuna and causing environmental damage[XVII].
The Delhi HC committee members also visited[XVIII] Yamuna Nagar on May 12 for the inspection of illegal makeshift passages and bundh sites. Before this, a team of Delhi Jal Board (DJB) had seen a bundh being made on River Yamuna in Kanalsi village on May 3. The DJB team visit was following a petition in Delhi HC asking for restoration of flow in Yamuna. Hearing the plea, Delhi HC had asked DJB to submit a report on May 8 regarding the position and quantum of the river flow at Tajewala. After DJB report, Delhi HC had on May 8 constituted the committee.
On May 19, a mining company was booked[XIX] for causing blockage in the Yamuna by constructing an unauthorised bundh across the river in Gumthala village to undertake mining activities. In his complaint to the police, Satyendra, sub-divisional engineer, HKB, Jagadhri, said that during a visit to Gumthala on May 9, he found that the representatives of agency M/S Joginder Singh had caused obstruction by constructing an unauthorised bundh on the Yamuna. He further said that he had directed the representatives of the agency to remove the bundh immediately and they had partially removed the bundh on May 13.
The Partapnagar police station in Yamuna Nagar on May 21 registered a zero FIR[XX], against unidentified 20-25 persons after some officials of the IWRD were confronted by illegal sand miners in the riverbed of Yamuna as some jurisdiction-related issues cropped up. The IWRD officials of Haryana had visited the spot on May 20 for stopping the illegal mining but later it was found to be falling within the territory of Uttar Pradesh (UP).
After remaining silent for about a month, the mafia restarted illegal mining[XXI] in the Yamuna riverbed at Tajewala village in Yamuna Nagar district. Haridev Kamboj, Executive Engineer, Water Services Division, Dadupur, had written to the district mining officer, Yamuna Nagar, on May 16, requesting him to keep a check on the unlawful activity.
On May 24, the Delhi HC also asked Haryana Government to ensure that water was supplied[XXII] to the capital without impediments. The direction came after a committee submitted its report citing 11 obstructions impending Yamuna flows in Yamuna Nagar and Karnal district. The committee also said that apart from creation of bunds, large-scale mining was going on along the Yamuna. The report added that mining was “causing huge environmental damage to the flora and fauna” in and around the riverbed. It said the bunds “have definitely affected the flow of water in the Yamuna”.
The committee further stated: “The state of Haryana had deliberately and intentionally kept back the information[XXIII] regarding details of mining site permits along the river hinting that the state was trying to provide a cover to activities affecting not only the flow of water, but also causing environmental pollution.” The committee was of the view that the flow of water in the river needed to be monitored. It suggested installation of flow meters[XXIV] for this purpose. However, the suggestions were opposed by Haryana, which said it wanted to file its objections to the findings of the report. The bench then asked the Haryana government to file its objections by July 22.
On June 5, four mining companies were booked for causing blockage[XXV] in the Yamuna by constructing unauthorised bundhs on the river at Gumthala, Sandhali (Nagli), Pobari and Model Town Karera villages in Yamuna Nagar to undertake mining activities on the riverbed. Vinod Kumar, XEN (Executive Engineer), said that the representatives of the mining companies were asked to remove the bundhs immediately.
In Panipat district the villagers, farmers appealed to CPCB[XXVI], Haryana CM to stop illegal sand mining going on in Yamuna river since May 2019. Against Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) guidelines, deep in stream mining was happening there with heavy machinery. In gross violation of rules, mining company had also created bunds across river section obstructing the flow of river. A video of May 19, 2019 showed one of the JCB sunk in river when such illegal bund breached.
As per the villagers, the mining was approved by UP Government. But the contractors were illegally using embankment on Haryana side in Sanoli area to carry heavy truckloads of sand. The embankment was already weak, vulnerable and had repeatedly breached in the past especially in 2010 flood causing huge losses to farmers. The farmers and villagers feared that the mining activities lead to embankment breach during monsoon floods endangering their lives, livelihoods and properties.
The villagers had even approached the administration for help. As per media reports farmers, villagers were given life threats by mining companies for objecting to mining work. During a visit reportedly by NGT team, the miners fled the area leaving behind the heavy machinery.
After sometime the mining work resumed and infuriated villagers then forcefully stopped movement of the trucks. At that time, the several villagers and farmers were booked by administration, which they said was done due to pressure by mining mafia.
On June 10, a local reporter in Panipat were implicated in false charges[XXVII] for exposing illegal sand mining in Yamuna and adverse impact on river, farmland, farmers, village pathways which was also endangering embankment. False cases were also registered against farmers who said illegal sand mining of unprecedented scale going on in connivance of concerned officials and big politicians, ministers.
By June 20, mining contractors had reportedly again constructed unauthorised bundhs[XXVIII] and makeshift passages in Pobari, Gumthala and other villages of Yamuna Nagar district to undertake mining activities in the Yamuna riverbed. Illegal bundhs and makeshift passages were diverting the natural flow of the Yamuna. Illegal mining was being undertaken in the villages, causing huge environmental damage to flora and fauna in and around the riverbed. It was alleged that officials of various departments of the administration visited the area from time to time, but did not take action against violators.
The illegal mining activities were rampant[XXIX] even in Drain No. 2, Sanoli, Panipat damaging the embankment. The villagers alleged government officials’ involvement and feared the villages would be flooded during monsoon.
In a tragic incident, two village kids from Kanalsi village, Yamuna Nagar died after drowning in deep sand mine pits in Somb river on July 7. The details of the incident and mining activities in the area can be seen here[XXX].
The Haryana government on July 23, contended that the Delhi HC did not have the jurisdiction[XXXI] to hear the ongoing water disputed between Delhi and Haryana. In an affidavit filed before court, the Haryana government said the Upper River Yamuna Board (URYB) should listen to the dispute between the two states. The Haryana government told that the court it had raised the issue of jurisdiction several times but the court “has failed in its duty to decide the issue of jurisdiction before proceeding further in the matter”. The affidavit comes in a plea filed by advocate SB Tripathi, who had sought sufficient water for the national capital. The matter would be now heard on July 27.
In its reply to the court-appointed committee’s finding, Haryana contended the committee has gone “beyond its mandate” while raising queries on sand mining. The HC had earlier appointed a committee to conduct an inspection of areas where bunds were allegedly constructed and submit its findings in a report. The committee had found instances of illegal sand mining. The Haryana government urged the high court to reject the committee’s report, which found that large-scale mining was going on in the river bed and that the Haryana government had not disclosed any information regarding the activity. Haryana has contended that the report was filed after a single inspection and without consulting it.
The monitoring committee, in its report attacked[XXXII] the UP and Haryana governments, the Delhi Development Authority and the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) for their inaction. Referring to a committee set up by the UP government for cleaning the Yamuna, the report stated, “The monitoring committee is of the view that no useful purpose has been served by setting up such a committee [by UP government] as the engineers seemed unaware of the seriousness of the severe pollution-related stretches that emanate from specific drains in UP.”
“When they attended the last meeting called by the NGT committee on April 4, they were completely unaware of the tasks they were required to perform and could contribute nothing at the meeting,” the report further said. The green tribunal-appointed body also attacked the Haryana government in the report for their “laxity”. “NGT may consider reprimanding the officers of the Haryana Pollution Control Board for their inability to discharge their statutory functions and lack of any regulatory vigil or control over 96 industrial pollution and other activities like sand mining and building bunds on the Yamuna,” it said.
The police in the state had failed to prove illegal mining charges[XXXIII] in 326 out of 332 cases. The report also said in past 4 years over 2500 complaints of illegal sand mining were filed through various medium. As per the report the police trying to please public, politicians and mafia was registering the cases but was deliberately leaving loop holes in the FIR resulting in low conviction. The report also claimed, all 32 mining sites in Yamuna Nagar were directly or indirectly patronized by a politician.
The report revealed that police was making drivers an accused, was conducting no photo or videography of the illegally mined area, was using no independent witness, had failed to collect even revenue records and even was filing cases without taking complaint details from mining departments. As a result, of the 487 FIR registered in past 8 years, in 271 cases accused were set free, 22 cases were cancelled, 33 were untraceable and charges were established only in 6 cases.
In August 2019, the DJB CEO moved the NGT[XXXIV] alleging illegal sand mining and bunds blocking Yamuna flows and Delhi water supply 17 kilometres downstream of Tajewala barrage Following this, the tribunal formed a committee[XXXV] comprising of Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), CPCB and District Magistrate to examine the issue and asked them to submit a report within a month. The case was posted for hearing on December 5.
Though mining activities were restricted during monsoon time. However local people in Karnal said that even during rain and floods there was no let up in riverbed mining operations.
There was report of contractors in Asadpur village in Sonipat carrying out mining in farming lands in addition to the allotted areas. Objecting to the activities, the farmers complained[XXXVI] to the district administration claiming that the land was full of pits and not farmable. The complaints were found true and the administration was supposed to take action against the contractor after filing the report.
During an inspection on October 15, the authorities of the HKB division, IWRD, Yamuna Nagar, found that some unknown persons were constructing illegal passage[XXXVII] by laying pipes and sand bags on the Yamuna and directed them to remove the makeshift bridge immediately.
Yamuna River in Yamuna Nagar was facing severe threat from mechanized and unsustainable mining[XXXVIII] operations happening on large scale in sheer violation of existing mining rules and guidelines and the responsible authorities were deliberately overlooking the gravity of the issue.
During a field visit[XXXIX] to the mining sites, scores of heavy trucks plying on riverbed ferrying precious sand were seen. Several Poclain and JCB machines were seen busy digging dip pits in the riverbed. The active course of the river was blocked and even changed. In fact river was nowhere in sight as its entire course was converted in deep stagnant water pools caused by non-stop mechanized mining. Machines were digging the sand and piling it on floodplain and nearby farm lands.
The massive scale mining has severely affected the health, social life of villagers, crops of farmers apart from damages to local roads. The groundwater table and aquatic and terrestrial wildlife in the area has also suffered immensely. Moreover the accidents related to the mining activities and sand transportation have increased sharply resulting in injuries and even deaths of people.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report titled Performance Audit on “Functioning of Mines and Geology Department”[XL] tabled in the state assembly on November 26, revealed several shortcomings and deficiencies in the mining sector. The report also mentioned that the Mining Department had not done any independent assessment of mineral reserves available in the state. It further said that there were instances of non-compliance[XLI] of provisions of mining rules and government instructions.
As per the audit report, there was poor monitoring of mining operations by department and boundaries of mines were not clearly demarcated on the ground. The report admitted that there were indications of change in river flow regime and ground water recharge due to excessive mining. As per the CAG report, the mining department was understaffed and against 206 sanctioned post only 125 were filled. It also revealed that mining department had not prepared district survey report as mandated and District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA).
Referring to the CAG report, the opposition claimed that sand mafia had caused Rs 5,000 crore loss[XLII] to the state exchequer. Taking a note of the CAG report, the Haryana Congress claimed that the government did not recover Rs 1476.21 crore from the mining contractors resulting in revenue losses to the state.
The leaders said that the CAG itself got Geo Special Survey of three mining areas out of the 95. From the survey of the Gumthla North Mining Block, it was proved that the mining contractor had extracted minerals from over double (204 %) the allotted area. The mineral mined by the contractor increased from 20.34 lakh tones to 44.72 lakh tones. It means, the State suffered a direct loss of about 110 per cent. The CAG report had also mentioned unhindered illegal mining citing the example of Nagli block Yamuna Nagar.
According to an estimate the Haryana Government was expected to earn a revenue of Rs 2133 crore per year from the 95 mining areas. But the CAG report found that the mining contractors were extracting minerals from double the areas and putting the State to a loss of more than Rs 5000 crore annually.
The authorities of Irrigation department on November 19 damaged three unauthorised makeshift passages[XLIII] constructed on the Yamuna in Jathlana area of Yamunanagar district to undertake mining activities on the river bed. There were several legal mining sites in Jathlana, but the mining contractors and mining mafia were constructing unauthorised makeshift passages across the Yamuna to undertake mining activities.
The state government on November 19 finalised a plan to check illegal mining using satellite imagery[XLIV]. The Haryana Space Applications Centre (HARSAC) was to acquire satellite images each month. P K Das, Additional Chief Secretary, M&G said that initially, a 3D image would be captured followed by another such image, to provide crucial inputs on the volume of minerals extracted.
The government had also developed software to issue ‘e-ravanas’[XLV] to the vehicles involved in transporting of mined minerals. The system developed by Haryana Knowledge Corp Ltd would replace the manual billing system prevalent in mining sector. There were several irregularities in manual billing including incorrect information, issuing bills for back and forth dates, even issuance of fake bills which were difficult to be traced and recognized.
Under the ‘e-ravanas’ the contractor would be generating the online bills with complete information of mineral quantity, destination, vehicles and drivers details which would be automatically shared with the department and other relevant agencies. The contractors would also be required to register vehicles to be used for transportation. The software would also work as an app in mobile phones.
The scale of illegal mining in Yamuna Nagar district and impact on Yamuna river was quite visible through drone images. The district administration had started the drone monitoring around HKB and Tajewala villages. The report also mentioned that the police actions had not deterred the illegal mining.
Various Hindi media report showing scale and destruction causing by illegal mining activities in Yamuna river in Haryana in Oct. Nov. months 2019.
There was report of large scale illegal mining going on in Bahadurpur, the village of Kawarpal, Education Minister, Haryana. A complaint about the activities was made to CM through twitter. Villagers alleged that influential people were patronizing the illegal mining and administration was afraid of taking actions against them.
In a violent incident, Tarun Saini a 23 year old youth of Rajpur village in Sadhora – Yamuna Nagar was beaten to death by drivers of dumper engaged in transporting sand and stone. The incident occurred on Nov 28 around 8.30 pm at Asgarpur while Tarun was returning home on his bike. There was some altercation with a driver over unknown issue in which the drivers encircled him and attacked him brutally with rods, knives he later succumbed to his injuries.
As per another report the mining companies had not paid around Rs 350 crore[XLVI] to the govt. NGT had in 2016 prohibited use of heavy machines for riverbed excavation. There were six mines allotted in 2015 in Sonipat district. Post NGT order the mining companies had stopped payment to the government. There were other companies paying very less amount than what was agreed in contract. But the mining operations were going on periodically and district administration was complicit. Three companies operating in Gyaspur, Bidoli and Chandoli owed around Rs 150 crore to the government.
As per mining department, the allotment to Lerone Consultant in Chandoli was suspended[XLVII] for not paying Rs 35 crore. The allotment to Sangam Infra, Yaudha Mines and Shyam Jaina in Badoli were cancelled as they failed to pay Rs 100 crores balance. The department was considering actions on Ultimate group and Anand Company in Tikola and Techno Export Company in Badoli for these reasons. While the Sangam Infra had stopped mining activities after NGT order, the Anand Company continued mining operations using the embankment in violation of NGT order.
According to a Dec 1 report, the mining department dismantled a temporary bund created across the Yamuna river by mining company in Gumthala area of Yamuna Nagar. The bund had diverted Yamuna flows towards UP state and local farmers were objecting to it. In the past too, several such bunds were damaged by the administration.
On Dec 1 evening, two youths of Bhudkalan village in Devdhar area of Yamuna Nagar met with fatal accident when their bike collided head on with a stone laden tractor-trolley. One of them died while the other was reported to be critically injured while under treatment in a local hospital.
The movement of thousands of vehicles has also severely damaged the Jagadhari-Ponta Sahib National Highway 73-A. The report cited involvement of government officials as one of the reasons behind illegal mining activities going on abated. The report also mentioned that the action plan of high officials was getting leaked to the sand mafia even before its execution turning the proposed actions fruitless.
The unabated mining had created 50-60 feet deep pits in Bailgarh, Tajewala, Bahadurgarh and Mandewala. There was no allotment of mining in Mohdinpur, still mininh was going on there. The contractors have not stopped making illegal bunds to carry on mining.
Meanwhile, rejecting the opposition’s allegations, Mool Chand Sharma, the Mining Minister stated that government has sought a report from mining department and ordered an in house inquiry[XLVIII] into the matter. He also directed[XLIX] the officers to constitute a team of top officials to look into illegal sand mining matters and register an FIR against the persons found guilty.
Despite several complaints of illegal sand mining from Yamuna River in Sonipat, the district administration failed to take action. Finally a mining department team from Chandigarh on December 11 seized[L] 6 poclain machines and 8 sand laden trucks from Gyaspur area. As per report, the contractor of Ultimate group had not paid auctioned amount and instalment money to the government but continued to mine. The report also said that government had suspended a contract and shut down three mines earlier.
On December 20, the mining and police department impounded 18 vehicles[LI] including 6 poclain machines, 9 trucks involved in illegal mining by Jalcov company from Yamuna river in Asadpur Nandnor villages in Sonipat. The seized vehicles were handed over to the police department and could not be released unless 50 percent of showroom price would be deposited by the contractor. The district mining officer Ashok was also transferred to Yamuna Nagar and Ms. Madhvi posted in Panipat was given the charge of the Sonipat district also.
Despite restrictive actions by mining department the Anand and Ultimate mining companies resumed mining operations[LII] in Tikola and Gyaspur in Sonipat. As per report the companies had failed to pay auctioned amount of Rs 25 crore and 10 crore apart from monthly instalment running into lakhs of rupees. Around a week ago the Ultimate company was found carrying in stream mining during nights. Recently mining in Chandoli was suspended and cancelled at six other locations for non-payment of mining amount however the administration had allowed mining at Tikola and Gyaspur raising question over functioning of mining department.
As per a Dec 22 report, a mining contractor had allegedly carried out illegal mining[LIII] over an area of 9.3 ha outside his contract area in Gumthala village of Yamuna Nagar and extracted 2,32,500 metric tonnes sand. This fact came to light after a team of the M&G Department, had on Dec 4 and 5 demarcated the area excavated by the contractor outside his contract area.
The contractor got a mining contract over 44.62 ha in Gumthala for extraction of sand for seven years. After getting environmental clearance & other permissions, he commenced mining on Dec 26, 2016. But he allegedly carried out illegal mining over 9.3 ha outside the contract area.
On the basis of the report prepared by the team after demarcation, Amitabh Singh Dhillon, Director General of M&G Department, ordered the suspension of the mining operation[LIV] and dispatch of mineral from the concession area on Dec 20 and the contractor was also served show-cause notice and submit reply within 15 days failing which action for termination of mining contract with forfeiture of full amount of security would be initiated without giving further notice.
Back in Sonipat, the flying squad under CM office, on Dec 27 raided[LV] the Anand and company and impounded 12 vehicles involved in mining operations. The action was taken when local administration was unable to stop the illegal mining by the company despite several complaints by the villagers.
As per Dec 28 report, the mining department team formed to check illegal mining activities in the district was being monitored[LVI] by some people and their movement and location was being shared with sand mafia though a WhatsApp group. Four persons chasing the mining department team were caught from a car without a number plate. The accused were handed over to the police dept but managed to get bail the very next day. Their interrogation could have revealed the name of officers & politicians had they were not hurriedly taken to the court as such rackets could not function without support from people in system.
In the latest incident from the district, the mining mafia forcefully freed[LVII] a sand truck impounded by the department and was still at large. While in Sailoti village of Faridabad the sand mafia first tried to mow down and then opened fired[LVIII] on a police team which was inspecting the area after complaints of illegal sand mining from Yamuna river.
OTHER RIVER BASINS
On January 6 a farmer of Jalouli village in Chandi Mandir, Panchkula was reportedly threatened by sand mafia[LIX] for objecting to illegal sand mining. This was not the first instance when the sand mafias have threatened and assaulted a person in Panchkula district. On Sept. 30, 2018, mining officer Panchkula received a threatening call from the sand mafia to stop doing checking in his area.
Shyamtu villagers filed complaint[LX] with the Ramgarh police against illegal mining along Ghagar river during nights. When the villagers asked the sand mafia to stop illegal mining, they threatened them of dire consequences. Number of such complaints from the area were on the increase. Before this, a farmer had complained of illegal mining being done in his agricultural land near the river bed at Raipur Rani on January 23.
Not only the villagers, but the sand mafia had also threatened the mining officer, Rajiv Kumar, on September 30, 2018. Kumar received a threatening call from the sand mafia to stop visit in the area, else they would damage his property or he could lose his life. Mining officer Rajiv Kumar also wrote a letter to Panchkula DCP, Kalka assistant commissioner of police (ACP), Panchkula forest officer, mentioning that the forest area of Panchkula was a reserved area and no one was allowed to carry mining. He also requested the officers concerned to keep a strict vigil in their respective areas.
The green court on August 31. 2018 had formed a committee of representatives of SPCB, Mining Department, Forest Department and Deputy Commissioner Charkhi Dadri to furnish a factual and action taken report. The report was submitted to NGT on February 11 stating that the devices had been installed to maintain the air quality. However, the lawyer for the petitioner produced photographs indicating that machines were being illegally operated for mining activities and the report did not depict correct picture of the ground situation.
The Ambala police on the complaints of assistant mining officers registered two separate cases[LXII] of illegal mining in Dera and Badoli villages in the district. In the first case, the mining department found illegal gravel mining from five kanals of land in Dera village by two people. In the second case, the illegal miners quarrelled with the mining officials and obstructed them from government work. The incident took place on March 28 when mining guards Roshan Lal and Jaspal Singh were inspecting a spot where the accused were mining sand from Begna river in Badoli village limits.
The Police again registered a case against 5 persons[LXIII] for illegal extraction and transportation of sand from Begna river in Ambala district. District mining officials had carried out an inspection of river Begna on April 5 where they spotted five tractors that were being loaded with illegally mined sand.
In Panchkula on March 2, three fresh cases[LXIV] were reporting increasing the numbers of incidents to 13 over past two months. In the latest case, a man given responsibility by the mines and mineral department to level agricultural land in Tibbi village was booked for carrying out illegal mining.
A joint team of the Mewat administration and the police was attacked[LXV] by over 25 members of sand mafia during a raid in Ferozepur Jhirka on July 9. The accused ransacked police vehicles and threw stones at the raiding team, leaving all officials injured. Later, the police registered an FIR naming 15 men and 10 unidentified persons. As per report, despite ban since 2006, illegal stone mining and crushing was still going on in Mewat. It was initially done in small areas, but later big illegal quarries were set up with the support of villagers.
On October 8, sand mining mafia attacked police officials in Pinjore, Panchkula while the team was on a raid to stop illegal mining in Ghaggar river. Police booked 15 men[LXVI] for allegedly attacking a police official and snatching a tractor seized by a team of the mining department. When the team was about to take the tractor trolley from the spot, 15 to 20 men came there with stones in their hands and surrounded the tractor.
Summary By all accounts the Haryana government has been totally insensitive on the issue of impact of illegal, mechanized mining on Yamuna river. Over past two years it has allowed mining in all the districts adjoining the river on the pretext of flood protection work. The embankment near Tajewala has been damaged and the HKB in Yamuna Nagar has been threatened by large scale illegal mining activities.
Illegal mining has been taking place on almost double the area than allotted. In violation of norms the mining companies have been found creating bunds, passages on and along riverbed all through the year. Most of the districts have not prepared district survey reports and managed to secure clearances on the basis of falsely prepared reports.
Inspection teams by Punjab and Haryana, Delhi HC and NGT have found river flows obstructed and diverted at will by miners causing change in natural flow path of the river.
The CAG report has particularly highlighted the corrupt practices of the miners, poorly functioning mining department and huge impact of illegal mining on Yamuna river leading to losses of crores of rupees in the revenue. The state government and mining companies have contributed inadequately in the district mineral funds. If investigated independently it will surely turn out to be a massive scam. The villagers, farmers along the Yamuna have been suffering immensely. There have been no concern on impact of mining on wildlife, aquatic life, groundwater table and river eco-system.
At least four people including two village kids have died in accidents involving illegal mining activities. There have been several incidents of attacks, threats and intimidations to villagers, farmers and government officials. Apart from Yamuna districts, illegal mining activities are going on in Panchkula, Ambala and Mewat districts.
Given the prevailing ignorance and apathy in state government, only a high level judicial intervention or a major water disaster could work as course correction otherwise there is no hope for Yamuna and other rivers from suffering the impact of unsustainable mining practices even in 2020 in Haryana.
Bhim Singh Rawat (firstname.lastname@example.org)