Dams · Sand Mining

Bihar Sand Mining 2020: Ruining rivers; aggravating floods

{Feature image: Up to 300 trucks a day take their fill of sand at a mine on the Sone River in Bihar state. India’s construction boom is stripping large volumes of sand, a vital ingredient in concrete, from its rivers. Environmentalists say the extraction is unsustainable, harming local hydrology and wildlife. Paul Salopek}

The 2018 review of sand mining[i] for Bihar highlighted how mismanagement by govt and then National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on sand mining in Ganga river, Son rivers particularly during monsoon months resulted in sand scarcity and soaring prices affected public and livelihoods of mining laborers.

The video report featuring local people revealed that illegal mining was causing floods in West Champaran by damaging embankments. Similarly, the report on Gaya mentioned sand mining among reasons behind increasing air pollution. The death of four kids by drowning into sand mine pits was shocking. This compilation presents the situation after 2018 so far.

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Sand boats seen active in Son river from Koelwar bridge even during monsoon. (Siddharth Agarwal, 11 August 2016) 

Govt actions

New policy Following the sand crisis, the state govt was learnt to drafting the Bihar State Sand Mining Policy 2019, a move required to incorporate the new rules of the NGT and the Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC). The new policy was to take into account the problems faced by the state govt in the past five years.

In the new policy, the mines and geology department, in order to drive up earnings, proposed to increase the number of sand mining units in Bihar. At that time, out of 38 districts, the department had divided the state into 25 districts, according to mining units of sand. However, under the new draft policy, there was a proposal to cut the sand mining ‘districts’ number to 15, but increase the sand mining sites within each unit.

The last Bihar sand mining policy was made in 2013. The mines and geology dept had set a target of earning Rs 900 crore in 2019.   https://www.hindustantimes.com/patna/new-policy-set-to-redraw-bihar-s-sand-mine-map/story-FNqzHWM8VOcAzBU320X7zH.html  (12 June 2019)

Govt to keep watch through drones, satellites CM Nitish Kumar in Aug 2019, asked the officials to take services of drones & satellites to monitor illegal mining and protect the monuments of historical and archaeological significance from stone-miners & stone-crushing. http://www.newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/2019/aug/04/patna-diary-nitish-government-to-keep-watch-on-illegal-sand-mining-through-drones-satellites-2013764.html  (4 Aug 2019)

Cabinet nod to Sand Mining Policy 2019 Cabinet meeting chaired by CM Nitish Kumar on Aug 13, 2019 gave its nod to the draft proposal of Bihar Sand Mining Policy 2019[ii]. As per the policy, a single person or a registered company, partnership firm or a cooperative society could obtain license for a maximum two sand blocks/ghats or 200 ha of sand mining area, whichever is lower.

Any person could get maximum of two sand blocks allotted provided such mining area is not spread over 200 ha of mining area either in one district or any other district. The policy has also treated rivers in district as a separate unit for allotment of sand blocks. https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/politics/cabinet-gives-nod-to-bihar-sand-mining-policy-2019-4335261.html  (14 Aug. 2019) 

In Sept 2019, the govt issued Bihar Minerals (Concession, Prevention of Illegal Mining, Transportation & Storage) Rules, 2019. http://mines.bih.nic.in/Acts/Bihar-Mineral-(CPTS)-Rules-2019.pdf  (17 Sept. 2019)

Mining prohibition during monsoon The sand mining is banned for three months from June 30 to Sept 30. To deal with the demand the govt allows storage of the minerals. However this fails to check the rise in prices. https://www.jagran.com/bihar/gaya-if-sand-mining-stops-from-river-ghats-the-price-will-increase-by-one-and-a-half-times-20401031.html  (17 June 2020)

DMF Status

18072020 Bihar MGD
No work has been done regarding DMF in Bihar state as per information available on govt website as on 21 July 2020. 

As per the website[iii] of mines and geology dept, the govt has not formed District Mineral Foundation (DMF), there is no progress in collection & utilization of fund under DMF rules.  

CAG Report

Delay in mining deals cost govt Rs 263 cr The inordinate delays in settlement of ghats, procedural wrangle and arbitrary approach of senior officers not only led to serious embarrassment of the govt in the court, but also made the mining department incur a loss of Rs 263.28 crore. The audit report[iv] of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for revenue sector that ended 31 March 2018, presented in the state assembly on 16 March 2020, stated that the delayed approval of mining plan and environmental clearance and lackadaisical approach of the district collectors and mining officers in resorting to alternative mechanism for allowing sand mining in 14 districts led to the loss of revenue.

22072020 BM
CAG audit finds Rs. 1097.2 crore worth financial irregularities in managing and allotting minor minerals ghats/blocks including sand. https://cag.gov.in/sites/default/files/audit_report_files/Report_No_2_of_2019_Revenue_Sector_Government_of_Bihar.pdf  

“The delay in taking decision to issue work order for sand mining, weak monitoring and supervision by the mines commissioners and the director, mines, led to non-settlement/ operation of sand ghats in 5 of 14 districts inspected during 2016-18, and subsequently the state suffered a loss of Rs 166.98 crore,” the report noted. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/delay-in-sand-mining-deals-cost-govt-rs-263-crprojects-hit-mega-infra-projects-likepatna-airport-terminal-aiims-digha-elevated-road-suffer-delays/story-I8zHGOpkXo3eNNsaa4IlUM.html  (18 March 2020) 

Judicial Intervention

NGT agrees to look into allegations of illegal mining in Son In Aug 2019, the NGT agreed to look into allegations of illegal sand mining along the Son river and directed State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), geology and mining dept, the Bihar State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) and the District Magistrate, Bhojpur to jointly inspect the area.

The green panel directed the SEIAA and SPCB to take appropriate action against the private limited company if the allegations were found to be correct. They were also asked to submit an action-taken report and inspection report before the next date of hearing on Aug 30, 2019.

The tribunal was responding to a petition that alleged that M/s. Broadson Commodities Pvt Ltd had been illegally undertaking sand mining on the Son river bed and in the process had constructed several temporary bridges across the river. Sand was being excavated at many places by digging up to a depth of 50 feet against the permissible depth of 10 feet, resulting in the reduction in groundwater levels in the nearby area. https://theleaflet.in/illegal-sand-mining-ngt-agrees-to-look-into-allegations-of-illegal-operations-along-the-river-sone/  (6 Aug 2019)

Fresh NGT committee to probe illegal mining in Son NGT in Feb 2020 constituted a fresh committee of CPCB, a Scientist nominated by MoEF&CC and an Expert nominated by the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad to probe the allegations of illegal sand mining in Son river by using heavy machines that are damaging the environment.

NGT passed the order after perusing a report filed by SPCB which said that no sand mining was being carried in Aurangabad and Rohtas districts. NGT said that the Patna High Court (HC) had noted that sand mining was being carried out and SPCB findings were in contravention of HC with inherent contradictions in the report.

The CPCB was made the nodal agency for coordination and compliance to submit report within two months. The SPCB was asked to provide necessary assistance to the Committee, next hearing was to be on May 22, 2020.

The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Bihar native Mohd Imran Khan Kadri alleging illegal sand mining in Son river in Aurangabad and Rohtas districts by using heavy earth moving machines inside the river, damaging the ecology, besides causing air pollution due to the use of heavy trucks. https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/india/ngt-constitutes-fresh-committee-to-probe-illegal-sand-mining-in-bihar-4984181.html  (27 Feb. 2020)

E-tendering of mining ghats put on hold The geology and mining dept suspended the e-auctioning of sand mines following an order by the NGT of Oct 23, 2019. Senior state govt officials said the suspension of e-tendering of sand ghats would not affect the ongoing mining.

The existing mining rights of sand ghats were set to expire on Dec 31, 2019. The e-tendering was being done for fresh allotment of the mining rights as per new sand mining policy. However, it was challenged in NGT on the grounds that it was not consistent with the Supreme Court (SC) guidelines. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/e-tendering-of-sandmining-ghats-on-hold/articleshow/71767327.cms   (26 Oct. 2019)

Govt approves mining plan against NGT directives The govt in last week of Nov 2019 approved a Bihar Mining Plan even though the green tribunal had raised apprehensions over the complete mining process in Bihar. The mining plan for Son river was a matter of concern. It was in contradiction with the dept’s Nov 9, 2019 order under which e-tendering process for auction of sand ghats was suspended till the disposal of the case by the NGT.

“When the matter is yet to be disposed in the NGT, this new policy of the dept raise serious question as what was the hurry by the State,” said K S Prasad, a green tribunal lawyer. The pleas challenging the new mining policy had also citied it to be inconsistent with the SC guidelines and there were lots of loopholes in the system ensuring corrupt practices.

There are around 400 sand mining ghats in Bihar. The e-tendering suspended on NGT orders was being done for fresh allotment of the mining rights as per new sand policy. https://www.dailypioneer.com/2019/india/bihar-govt-approves-mining-plan-against-ngt-directives.html  (16 Nov. 2019)

NGT dismisses plea against govt’s sand policy NGT on Dec 12, 2019 dismissed a batch of applications filed against a govt policy which allowed artificial bifurcation of homogenous stretches of river bed in terms of sand mining. The NGT bench said that ”Bihar Sand Mining Policy, 2019” was in conformity with the directions given by the SC and the ”Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines, 2016”.

It also rejected applicants” argument that restricting grant of leases only upto two to an individual in the ”2019 Policy” was in violation of the provisions of Article 19 (1) (g) (right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business) of the Constitution of India, saying that the NGT was not the right forum to decide. https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/ngt-dismisses-plea-against-bihar-govts-policy-on-sand-mining/1684091  (12 Dec. 2019)

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Arial view of Son river from Koelwar bridge where a boatmen are seen busy extracting sand from riverbed during monsoon. ( Siddharth Agarwal, 11 August 2016) 

Illegal Mining Reports

Rivers in ruin Sand prices in Bihar reached as high as Rs 15,000 to Rs 18,000 per truck load after the govt attempted to crackdown on illegal traders over the past two years. The illegal trade was lucrative for the mafia, who operate in connivance with politicians, police and officials of mines & geology dept.

Bihar over the past three years, failed to meet its target in terms of revenue collected from the sale of sand. Illegal sand mining across rivers led the govt to incur losses running up to Rs 600-700 crore every year. Transfers of sincere administrative officers cracking down on the sand mining mafia has been a regular affair. A syndicate of sand smugglers was active in at least a dozen districts of Bihar, including Patna, Saran, Bhojpur, Rohtas, Aurangabad, Banka, Lakhisarai, Gaya, Arwal and West Champaran, among the worst hit.

Illegal sand mining Part 3 Bihar govts attempted crackdown sends prices soaring officials face axe as rivers in ruin
Illegal sand mining at Sone river in Rohtas district. Image courtesy: Sanjay Kumar Choudhary.

Chirand village, situated on the confluence of Ganga and Saryu rivers in Saran district was the favourite of smugglers, because it also connected to the NH-19. Sand mined from the nearby Son river in Patna and Bhojpur districts was shipped to Chirand in boats to be smuggled to north Bihar and neighbouring districts of Uttar Pradesh.

Illegal sand mining also causes erosion, leading to shifting of villages on river banks. “There have been instances where rivers changed their course due to illegal sand mining. An example of such ecological imbalance was witnessed in West Champaran district, when several villages were washed away due to flash floods, an unnatural phenomena in the region bordering Nepal, caused by illegal mining in Kataiya river.

Son river has been completely ruined with heavy machines digging up its banks from Koelwar in Bhojpur to Arwal, Aurangabad and Rohtas in south central Bihar. On 30 Dec, 2018, Patna district authorities issued a show cause notice to Broadson Commodities Pvt. Ltd for damaging the Son canal under Paliganj subdivision to pave way for transportation of sand from the ghat. https://www.firstpost.com/india/illegal-sand-mining-part-3-bihar-govts-attempted-crackdown-has-sent-prices-soaring-officials-face-axe-as-rivers-in-ruin-6008351.html  (2 Feb 2019)

Sand mining, brick kilns hasten Ganga’s shift from Patna Ganga, which once flowed along Patna, has shifted away at least 5-6 kms away from its original course. In Patna district, the total length of the Ganga river is 99 km. The waterfront used to be around 20 km before the river started moving away from the city. Research published in 2014 said that river Ganga was shifting away from the city of Patna on an average of 0.14 km per year.

Experts believed that the change in the course of the river was due to several reasons which are geogenic as well as anthropogenic. “Lateral shifting of the river is a typical characteristic of any tropical river. But, at the same time, what has happened with Ganga, especially in and around Patna, is definitely man-made. Too much extraction of sand and building of brick kilns has led to the shifting of the river away from the city,” said R.K. Sinha, a biologist and also the vice chancellor of the Nalanda Open University in Bihar.

Sinha explained how the sand mining and dumping by brick kilns affected the flow of the Ganga river and its tributaries like Son and Ghaghara near Patna. “Excessive mining at the mouth of river Son which meets Ganga near Patna has also caused the change in flow. The mining has eroded a lot of villages on the left side and deposited all the soil on the right, and a vast stretch of land has been created,” he added. https://thewire.in/environment/mining-and-brick-kilns-hasten-gangas-shift-from-patna  (20 May 2019)

Mafia clout on Son people On their Out of Eden walk tracking ancient human migration route, Paul Salopek and Siddharath Agarwal were taken aback while passing by Son river in Rohtas district after seeing endless line of sand laden trucks. The scenario provided a glimpse into brazen scale of sand mining there. They were even approached by truck drivers to highlight their grievances against exorbitant extortion at check post showing firm clout of sand mafia over the lives of people and rivers.  https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/06/inside-india-sand-mining-mafia/  (26 June 2019)

Illegal mining threaten Pyne irrigation system In June 2020, illegal sand mining activities threatened the traditional Pyne irrigation system on Barnaar river in Chairya Bahiyar region of Bhagalpur. Hundreds of acres of farmlands in Kodiya, Bahiyar, Chairya, Bahiyar Bhadari Bahiyar areas have been irrigated with the help of Pyne irrigation system over a century. However the excessive sand mining has lowered the river water level thus hampering water supply in Pyne channels. Villagers lowered the inlets of Pyne at the river mouth but in vain. 

Pyne irrigation channel of Charaiya Bahiyar. (Dainik Bhaskar) 

Farmers used to maintain the Pyne irrigation channels on annual basis as its lone water supply source in the area. They asked administration to look into the issue, fearing more difficulties in future to fertile rice belt. Some famers are even trying to dig borewells but as the groundwater level is low this is not helpful. https://www.bhaskar.com/local/bihar/bhagalpur/sono/news/sand-mining-threatens-survival-of-pines-problem-of-irrigation-127444939.html  (25 June 2020)

Large scale illegal mining in Baribigha Despite administration claim, excessive illegal mining was taking place in Khalilchak, Pein, Nemdarganj, Ahiyapur, Dariyachak, Onama, Panhesa, Rahicha, Panchi, Mahuli villages of Baribigha tehsil in Sheikhpura district. Fearless mafia was digging farmlands forcibly and supplying precious sand to in connivance of officials. Despite several complaints to police, no action was taken against the miners.  https://www.bhaskar.com/local/bihar/patna/barbigha/news/illegal-sand-mining-business-being-carried-out-vigorously-in-khalilchak-village-mafia-morale-rising-due-to-lack-of-administration-127456753.html  (29 June 2020)

Illegal sand stockyard business thriving in Rohtas Just before arrival of monsoon, illegal miners started stock piling sand in huge amount in Lerua, Kanchanpur, Amra Talab, Dhodadh Dhankada area in under Mufssil police station in Sasaram. The sand was being procured using heavy machines poclains, JCBs from Son river during evening and night hours. Miners were then transporting it in hundreds of trucks and dumpers to stockyards. The sand is sold at high prices during monsoon creating huge revenue losses to govt.

Surprisingly the stockyards were created in open area along NH 2 which is frequented by senior officials. The police was occasionally taking some action against staff and miners but that has not stopped the illegal trade. Often miners were seen resuming mining activities within hours of police action. https://zeenews.india.com/hindi/india/bihar-jharkhand/illegal-sand-mining-continue-in-rohtas/701658  (25 June 2020)

Sand laden trucks damage Karamnasa river bridge The bridge connecting Chandauli and Buxar continued to face threats from excessive load of red sand laden trucks transporting to Uttar Pradesh from Bihar. The post of mining officer in Buxar remained vacant affecting checking of trucks. A well-organized racket was functioning and bribing officials at check points to facilitate exit of sand trucks out of the state.

This was also damaging the roads and bridges in the area. The Deval bridge on Karamnasa river was already in the dilapidated condition due to this. Another bridge was facing damages. https://www.jagran.com/bihar/buxar-mining-officer-vacant-sand-mafia-belgaum-20440107.html  (26 June 2020)

If govt failed to act now the bridge would be permanently damaged by heavy sand trucks soon. The slabs of pillar number two had already sunken in ground last year. https://www.jagran.com/bihar/buxar-the-slab-of-the-deval-bridge-sunk-with-the-burden-of-sand-20316320.html  (27 May 2020)

As per latest report, the earthwork along the road close to the bridge is also giving away and would wear off in the event of floods thus endangering the bridge. https://www.livehindustan.com/uttar-pradesh/ghazipur/story-sunken-bank-near-deval-karmansha-bridge-3357407.html  (17 July 2020)

The traffic movement was restricted over the bridge on Dec 28, 2019 following severe damages to a pillar and cracks on two other pillars of Karamnasa bridge. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/varanasi/cracks-in-pillar-of-karmanasha-bridge-traffic-prohibited/articleshow/73011747.cms  (29 December 2019)

Video: NH-2 Bridge linking Chandauli to Bihar out of use leading to heavy traffic snarl
Image source: India TV 

At that time too villagers had blamed movement of heavy trucks through the bridge as the main reason behind the damages. https://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/video-nh2-bridge-linking-chandauli-to-bihar-out-of-use-leading-to-heavy-traffic-snarl-574521  (29 Dec. 2019)

Banka turns illegal mining hotspot  With lockdown relaxation providing relief to mining activities the sand mafia resumed illegal sand mining operations across the Banka district. As Chandan river was not able to meet the demand, the miners turned to the embankment built investing crores of rupees. Even the restrictive area between Domuhan and Amarpur Ghogha Biyer was not spared.

अरबों के तटबंध पर लगी बालू माफिया की नजर
Dainik Jagran image 

The mafia was so fearless that it was carrying illegal mining along the embankment in broad day light. The situation at Gohalu and Karma ghat was equally worrying where embankment was recently repaired. All this was creating embankment breach threat during flood. https://www.jagran.com/bihar/banka-need-to-take-action-20285854.html  (19 May 2020)

Badua river embankment under mining threat In Ranadeeh and Shambhuganj area of Banka district not only the Badua riverbed is mined but the embankment created for flood protection is facing threat from illegal mining.

Dainik Bhaskar Image 

The illegal mining continued despite some action by administration. The embankment has been severely damaged around Bato, Bagha, Silota, Chhtrahar villages by large scale mining. Villagers are fearing flood threats during monsoon. https://www.bhaskar.com/local/bihar/bhagalpur/banka/news/illegal-sand-mining-continues-from-badua-embankments-even-after-fir-on-28-mafias-127457897.html  (29 June 2020)

The illegal sand mining was cited as the major cause for the flood havoc, in East & West Champaran districts in 2017. Admitting the impact, the disaster management dept officials said rampant illegal mining weakened the embankments at many places along Gandak river, which collapsed in the face of steady build-up of water in the catchment areas. https://www.hindustantimes.com/patna/illegal-sand-mining-in-river-beds-blamed-for-flood-fury-in-bihar-s-east-and-west-champaran/story-PUuQbOw8pjj24sWYCxpLVI.html (22 Aug 2017)

Illegal sand transportation in Gaya The illegal sand transportation and trade during night hours was rampant in Tikari, Panchanpur, Gurua, Sherghati, Dobhi, Maanpur, Ramshila, Dhob Ghat, Chandoti areas of Gaya district. The administration has provided relaxation in construction and storage of sand under unlock phase. However the transportation in night was not allowed. Moreover, after June 30, 2020 there was ban on mining activities across the state. But all these norms were being openly violated by the illegal sand racket.

The increased vehicular movement of sand during nights was also resulting in road accidents and causing noise pollution in interior areas thus affecting the local people.

In a meeting in June 2020, with DSP and SHOs, the IG Rakesh Rathi has reportedly told the police department that controlling illegal sand transportation is responsibility of mining dept and police dept would not chase sand laden vehicles and mining dept would be assisted only when they seek support.  https://www.jagran.com/bihar/gaya-mining-department-slow-transporting-sand-from-tractors-at-night-on-roads-20489537.html  (08 July 2020)

Violence 

9 villagers including 7 kids drowned in Son river illegal mining pits Brazen illegal sand mining activities continued in Son river stretch in Rohtas district. The riverbed is strewn with deep mine pits turning Son into a danger zone for local people. All happening under the nose of administration. 

अवैध बालू खनन से डेंजरजोन बनी सोन, लगातार जा रही जान
Dainik Jagran Image 

In the second week June 2020, two young girls from Makraine village under Dalmiyanagar police station fell into mine pit and died. In a similar incident, on March 1, 2020, two boys from Gandhi Nagar area drowned in deep pit while taking bath.

Before this, Anoop Kumar a local reporter died on Nov 3, 2019. Firdaus Alam of Sasharam died on June 08, 2019. Three more kids from Taal Bans area had drowned to death on April 25, 2019. https://www.jagran.com/bihar/rohtas-illegal-sand-mining-leads-to-danger-zone-20410867.html  (19 June 2020)

In Aug 2018, four children aged 8-10 drowned allegedly after falling into a pit created by illegal sand mining from Morhar river in Gaya district. The children, including 3 girls, had gone to take bath in the river near Chitab Khurd village under Amas police station area. They slipped into deep water and drowned, police said. Local people, however, alleged that the four died after falling into a pit created because of excess and illegal sand mining. https://www.ndtv.com/cities/4-children-dead-after-falling-into-illegal-sand-mining-pit-in-bihar-river-1907652  (28 Aug 2018)

RTI activist shot dead in Patna Police recovered the dead body of Pankaj Kumar (32) from Katarhi village under the Rania Talab police station area in Patna district’s Paliganj sub-division on Jan 4, 2020. Pankaj had lodged complaints with mines and geology dept against illegal sand mining at his village, Janpara in Bikram block, some months back apart from filing several RTIs on the issue.

SHO of Rania Talab police station Indrajeet Singh said preliminary investigations revealed that Pankaj, who had gone to his maternal aunt’s residence on Jan 3, 2020, did not return home. Pankaj was shot in neck from a close range. He owned a general store at the Janpara village.

Paliganj DSP Manoj Kumar Pandey said Pankaj used to post contents on his social media profile regularly against sand-laden trucks passing through his village, much to the inconvenience of common people and school children. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/sand-mining-complainant-shot-in-patna/articleshowprint/73103079.cms  (5 Jan. 2020)

The bullet-riddled body of the RTI activist was found near the bank of Son river in Patna. He reportedly suffered head injuries and had bled out. While the police officials said a probe has been launched to nab the unidentified accused, social activists and Kumar’s peers suspect the role of sand mafia in the murder. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/rti-activist-found-murdered-in-patna/story-Vi6Umalo635qtnRoS1XxYN.html   (06 Jan. 2020)

RTI activists living dangerously in Bihar - The Hindu
The Hindu infograph (25 Dec. 2018) 

Residents of the Janpara village also pointed at involvement of the sand mafia, saying Kumar uncovered huge irregularities in the sand mining trade and had initiated a massive movement against the sand mafia in Paliganj sub-division through social media, which brought into the limelight the nexus between corrupt officials and sand mafia.

Bihar RTI activist Shiv Prakash Rai said that over 16 RTI activists had been killed in Bihar over the past 11 years and that the govt and the police were of no help despite several pleas. https://newsd.in/patna-missing-since-friday-rti-activist-pankaj-kumar-found-dead/ (6 Jan 2020)

Four members of patrolling team crushed to death In a horrific accident, vehicle escorting patrolling team of mining dept was crushed by a hyva truck at Rajpur village in Gaya district on May 21, 2020. The fatal accident killing four people occurred near Kosma hill on Gaya-Panchanpur main road. The deceased included the driver of vehicle, one state armed police personnel and two home guards. The hyva truck was carrying gravel material.

बिहार: गया में अवैध खनन रोकने गए वाहन पर चढ़ाया हाइवा, सैप जवान सहित चार की मौत
Escort vehicle after accident. Dainik Jagran 

The mining team was on its way to take action against illegal mining activities. As per information they chased and over took hyva truck near Kosma hill and asked the driver to stop. But the hyva driver ran the truck into escort vehicle first dragging it for sixty metres and then pushing it into a ditch along the road. After the accident, the truck driver fled the spot. The escort vehicle was later pulled back with the help of JCB machine but by then the four person had died. The collision was so strong that even the weapons of staff were broken.

The hyva belonged to Gayatri Construction Company. It was bearing a pass on front glass signed by executive engineer of Rural Work Department, Bhojpur circle. The pass was only valid for April 20 to May 3, 2020 period. Officials believed it was deliberate attack on the mining dept. https://www.jagran.com/bihar/patna-city-truck-collided-with-escort-vehicle-four-people-died-in-road-accident-in-gaya-20294549.html  (22 May 2020)

Banka SDPO, 6 cops injured, truck driver killed The henchmen of sand mafia attacked Banka SDPO Dinesh Chandra Srivastava, who was leading a police team and mining dept officials at Jathore ghat near Janakpur village under Amarpur police station in Banka district on Oct 22, 2019 night. Police and mining dept vehicles were damaged by the sand miners.

A truck driver was killed in the firing by those involved in illegal sand mining. The deceased was identified as Fantoosh Yadav. Dinesh, who received serious head injuries, was admitted to Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College and Hospital at Bhagalpur. Six other policemen also got injured and they were undergoing treatment at Banka govt hospital.

Following Fantoosh’s murder, villagers blocked the Banka-Bhagalpur road near Mahagama demanding probe into the incident and compensation to the kin of the deceased. The road blockade was lifted after police intervened. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/banka-sdpo-six-cops-injured/articleshow/71727276.cms (24 Oct 2019)

Mining officer attacked in Banka The mining officer Maheshwar Paswan and his team was attacked by sand miners on May 18, 2020 in Lakhnoudi village while they raided the spot following complaint of illegal mining damaging the embankment along Chandan river.

After the team reached the location, the miners fled leaving behind about 20 tractors used to transport sand. But later group of over sixty armed person returned & attacked the mining team.

They even freed the impounded tractors and also damaged the vehicles of mining depnt. Later the mining officer lodged a complained against 55 persons. After measurement, the mining dept found that about one million square feet sand worth Rs 3.36 crore was stolen from Chandan river by the miners. https://www.bhaskar.com/local/bihar/bhagalpur/banka/news/fir-registered-on-55-unknowns-including-41-named-in-the-case-of-mining-officer-and-police-attack-on-baloo-ghat-127318631.html  (20 May 2020)

Attacked by the sand mafia in Bihar’s Vaishali district, injured assistant sub-inspector Yugal Kishore Singh (right) is undergoing treatment at the Hajipur sadar hospital.
Attacked by the sand mafia in Vaishali district, injured assistant sub-inspector Yugal Kishore Singh (right) undergoing treatment at the Hajipur sadar hospital. (Photo: Rahul Amrit/HT, 15 Sept. 2017) 

In Sept 2017, also sand mafia had grievously attacked a police team, injuring at least three cops in Chandralay village Vaishali district when the team was taking action against illegal sand mining. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/bihar-s-sand-mafia-attacks-police-party-in-vaishali-3-cops-injured/story-6ftJnvIF4nJElzzPuqFBvO.html   (15 Sept. 2017)

Killed for refusing to pay extortion The cleaner or ‘khalasi’ of a sand-laden truck was shot dead in Rohtas district late on Nov 10, 2019 night for refusing to pay extortion money demanded by criminals at a govt checkpost. The incident took place on Pali road under Dehri-on-Son police station area. The 25-year-old deceased was identified as Suraj Kumar.

The 14-wheel truck (UP53ET-7734), loaded with sand at Dehri, was on its way to Gorakhpur. The men at the checkpost asked driver Chandan Kumar and cleaner Suraj to pay Rs 10,000 to cross the checkpost with sand. Their refusal to pay led to heated exchange of words during which one of the accused allegedly entered the driver’s cabin and shot at Suraj.

The truckers’ unions of Rohtas and Kaimur districts had also lodged protests in the past against extortion by ‘private checkers’ (representatives of lessees) at all the five check-posts in the twin districts. They alleged that CCTV cameras were not installed at any check-post. As per Rohtas truck operators’ union president Vinay Singh, he had given several representations to the DM, SP and DIG, seeking action against the lessee representatives involved in extortion from the sand-laden trucks, but to no avail. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/truck-drivers-helper-killed-for-refusing-to-pay-extortion/articleshow/72012383.cms  (12 Nov. 2019)

Bullets, bombs rock Banka A dispute erupted between people involved in sand mining and villagers of Navtoliya and Majlishpur in Banka district on June 18, 2020. In the violent clash both side attacked each other with stones, bullets and bombs injuring many. The clash went on for about two hours and the sounds of explosions, firings were heard in Banka town. 

बम के धमाकों और गोलीबारी से थर्राया बांका, बालू के अवैध धंधे को लेकर गरजी बंदूकें
News 18

The violence occurred following opposition of Majlishpur villagers to mining and dumping of sand from Chandan river on village graveyard land. The bombing injured three people severely. The other injured whose number is not disclosed were admitted in Barahat hospital. A similar violent clash had taken place on the same issue about a month back. https://hindi.news18.com/news/bihar/banka-bihar-violent-clash-and-firing-between-two-gangs-at-banka-for-illegal-sand-mining-brsnd-bramk-3155593.html (19 Jun 2020)

Violent clash among Jamui villagers, police team attacked On the night of July 1, 2020 a violent clash erupted among the villagers of Darima village in Khaira area of Jamui district. An on-going dispute between two groups was further triggered by the issue of illegal sand mining.

bihar police
Hindustan Hindi 

Amid stone pelting, there was an attempt to set the house of a person on fire. The person seemed involved in illegal mining and his tractor was damaged earlier, which lead to the clash. After complaint, the police reached the village and seized the tractor. On this, the villagers attacked the police team. Later the CRPF unit was sent to village to normalise the situation. In clamp down by CRPF, few villagers were reported injured. Amid this, the village headman was fired at in his home. https://www.livehindustan.com/bihar/jamui/story-two-sides-clash-over-illegal-sand-mining-in-jamui-bihar-attacked-on-police-3321186.html  (2 July 2020)

IMG_7583
Son river in Dehri from a height of about 18000 feet. Photo: Siddharath Agarwal, 28 Sept. 2018. 

Summary The gloomy scenario of sand mining governance and sustainable mining has turned worse in past one and half years in Bihar. The govt has failed to adhere to SC directions and Patna HC order. The concerned department including SPCB and mining have become totally ineffective. The govt has brought in new mining policy however main emphasis lies on increasing revenue collection by allowing more mining in rivers.

Minor Minerals: Revenue target and collection by Bihar govt. http://mines.bih.nic.in/. The target and collection have gone up by over 150% in last five years. 

Sustainability, drones, CCTVs have become fancy words; nothing concrete is being done towards monitoring and persecuting illegal sand mining activities. On the other hand, the govt has failed to form and implement the DMF rules during last five years.  

Like in other states, in Bihar too NGT tried to outsource the judicial remedies to committees after committees with no end in sight. NGT first objected to sand allotment in the state but later it okayed the same policy though so many valid points were raised in the plea.

Son is among the rivers worst mined rivers in India. The shifting Ganga at Patna, as claimed in a research on account of unsustainable mining activities needs immediate attention from Central and state govt.

Officials are admitting that illicit sand mining turned the flood misery worse in East and West Champaran districts in past years. However same is going on along Badua and Chandan rivers in Banka now.

The lockdown and monsoon restrictions have done little to ease the situation. Rohtas, Bhojpur, Aurangabad, Banka, Saran, Gaya, Sasaram, Champaran, Patna, Buxar among other districts have emerged hotspot of illegal mining activities.

The threat to century old Pyne irrigation system affecting farmers in Bhagalpur is quite alarming. Similarly despite visible damages to bridges on Karamnasa river due to movement of sand laden trucks in Buxar, it has failed to achieve prompt actions from state administration.

The collusion of govt officials, politicians and sand mafia have become common and threat to rivers, and people across India and Bihar has become another example of unholy nexus. There are officials making honest efforts to tame the mining menace only to be punished by govt (with transfers) or miners or both.

Shockingly at least 16 people including 7 kids, 4 govt officials, 1 RTI activist, 1 reporter, 1 villager, 1 truck driver and 1 helper lost their lives on account of ruthless mining activities in Bihar over past one and half years.

Also there have been brazen attacks on mining and police officials by mining mafia. There is no count of number of injured officials, villagers in violent clashes, assaults routinely taking place across the state. Is this Sushasan (good governance) claimed by CM Nitish Kumar?  

Bhim Singh Rawat (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

Please also see SANDRP annual overview for the year 2019-20 for following states:

J&K Riverbed Mining 2020: Rivers exposed to mechanized mining

Himachal Pradesh sand mining 2020: No Replenishment study, district foundation

Uttarakhand Riverbed Mining 2020: Rivers, People, Revenue Robbed

Punjab Sand Mining Overview 2019: Story of Political Patronage & Goonda Tax

Haryana Riverbed Mining 2019: Yamuna Robbed of Minerals, Flows

UP riverbed mining overview: NGT, CBI, Govts cannot stop the menace

Rajasthan River Sand Mining Overview 2019: SC Ban Remains, Police-Mafia Gang Rules

Madhya Pradesh River Sand Mining 2019: Rivers mined Dry; Govt not bothered

Maharashtra Riverbed Mining Overview 2019: Mining Posing Bigger Threats As Government Fails To Act

Goa Riverbed Mining Overview 2019: Civil Societies Form Network To Curb Mining Menace

Kerala 2020 Sand Mining: Don’t forget floods, fisherfolks & vanishing villages

Karnataka Sand Mining 2020: Active Collector, Destruction of fish sanctuary & calm collection

Tamil Nadu Sand Mining 2020: Persistent Court can’t shake indifferent govt

Andhra Pradesh Riverbed Mining 2020: Quicksand of mismanagement

Telangana Riverbed Mining 2020: Tribals, Godavari robbed

Bihar Sand Mining 2020: Ruining rivers; aggravating floods

End Notes:

[i] https://sandrp.in/2019/02/21/east-india-sand-mining-2018-will-ngt-order-help-restore-subarnarekha-river/

[ii] http://mines.bih.nic.in/Acts/Bihar-Sand-Mining-Policy-2019-EN.pdf 

[iii] http://mines.bih.nic.in/

[iv] https://cag.gov.in/sites/default/files/audit_report_files/Report_No_2_of_2019_Revenue_Sector_Government_of_Bihar.pdf

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