Sand Mining

India Sand Mining: Violence & Accidents Killed 418 People in 16 Months 

(Feature Image: SDRF personnel with dead body of a man who died after drowning in a deep pit created by illegal mining in Malan river, Kotdwar in July 2021. Image Source: ETV Bharat)

In addition to destruction of rivers eco-system and disruption of environmental services to riparian communities, the illegal and unsustainable sand mining practices in India have also been causing avoidable violence and accidents resulting in scores of human deaths and injuries on annual basis. However, there is no comprehensive picture emerging on this man made disaster. To fill the gap, SANDRP has been trying to compile available information on human toll from river bed mining activities across the country since last few years.

Tracking the issue, this year we have prepared detailed accounts along with summary reports in a zone wise manner for North, East, West and South zones covering sand mining violence and accidents from December 2020 to March 2022. On the basis of these zonal reports, this account sums up national level situation.

SANDRP’s previous report detailing 193 human deaths in 23 months between January 2019 and November 2020 on account of sand mining activities can be seen here. In addition to these reports, this year have published four more blogs covering infrastructural damages due to mining activities, current sand mining situation, relevant decisions by various governments and judicial interventions concerning sand mining affairs and governance in the country.

Here we first recap the highlights and summary of zonal reports on sand mining violence and accidents, followed by summing up the pan India scenario.  

North Zone: Sand Mining Violence & Accidents Highlights

Uttar Pradesh Uttar Pradesh has the biggest share among mining related deaths, injuries and violent incidents in North India. Information that we could gather shows that there were 102 deaths and injuries to 90 people from December 2020 to March 2022.

With 82 deaths and 77 injuries, the road accidents in UP involving sand transporting trucks, dumpers, tractors have been biggest reason behind the human death toll and fatalities during this period. At least 23 people lost their lives in just two road accidents of Kaushambi (8) in December 2020 and Barabanki (15) in October 2021.

8 people were killed after a truck overloaded with sand toppled over and fell on a car in Kaushambi, UP in Dec. 2020. (HT photo)

There have been several incidents of mob turning violent and damaging public & private properties after sand trucks mowing down common people. In one such incident in January 2021 in Agra, even the police team was targeted and several vehicles were burnt down apart from police check post following accidental death of a sand tractor driver during police action. Clamping down Nishad community boatmen in Prayagraj in February 2021 by police in which about 17 boats were damaged for mining activities also led to violent protests and political mobilization against administrative excesses. 

The illegal mining in Ken river in Banda has severely affected farmers and villagers. Local reporter and activist Ashish Sagar Dixit has been facing oppression by state administration for exposing illegal sand mining there as it has some high profile politicians involved. Affected by brazen mining activities, a farmer even pleaded intervention from Defence Minister and a woman Usha Nishad tried to self-immolate. However the state machinery has been insensitive and unresponsive.

Labourers have been facing exploitation & deaths in stone mining activities in Chitrakoot, which are not counted in this report. There have been several incidents in which overloaded sand, gravel trucks stuck in railway lines thus disrupting train services & posing big accident threats. One such incident happened during the President’s visit in the state in June 2021.

Haryana The March 2022 tragic accident in Yamuna Nagar in which one RTA (Road Transport Authority) official and a truck driver were burnt to death exposes both large scale illegal mining from Yamuna river and negligence of concerned departments in dealing with the issue.  As per a report, excessive mining activities have created deep pits along 75 km long stretch of Yamuna flowing through 123 villages in the district in which about 100 drowning deaths have taken place in past five years. 

Uttarakhand In Uttarakhand 21 people have lost their lives while 36 have suffered injuries in riverbed minerals (RBM) mining related incidents from Dec 2020 to March 2022. At least 10 deaths and 18 injuries are result of accidents at mining sites.

Overall 6 mine workers including a woman have died and 18 suffered injuries on account of accidents at mining sites in Haryana in this period. The excessive mining in Gaula river in Haldwani and Khoh, Sukhro, Malan rivers (under river training policy) have been proving disasterous for infrastructural projects and human lives. The mine workers mostly migrants are subjected to overwork in risky conditions but are underpaid while state earns huge revenues. Moreover, in case of deaths and injuries in mine accidents, they are left in miserable conditions.

Summary of North Zone

At least 136 people have lost their lives and 181 suffered injuries due to riverbed mining and transportation activities in North Indian states over the past 16 months from December 2020 till March 2022. Most of the deaths (110) and injuries (130) have been due to road accidents involving sand transporting vehicles (trucks, dumpers, tractors). This is followed by 22 deaths mostly young and teenage children in sand and brick kilns pits. In the same period mishaps (mine collapse, accidents) at mining sites have killed 19 and injured 19.

127 of the total deaths on account sand mining activities have occurred in just three states of Uttar Pradesh (92), Haryana (14) and Uttarakhand (21). While 33 people including citizens (10), reporters, activists (02), and government officials (21) have faced attacks or suffered injuries in sand mafia assaults, fortunately there have been no fatality due to this.

East & North East Zone: Sand Mining Violence & Accidents Highlights

Bihar The available reports show that at least 76 people have lost their lives and 103 have been injured in sand mining related accidents and violence between December 2020 and March 2022 in Bihar. The sand mafias are ruling the roost attacking police teams. The state has seen about 20 incidents of violent attacks by sand mafia injuring 81 persons of which 48 are policemen including some senior officers. Fearing the mafias, several police officials reportedly became part of mafia-police nexus.

The gang war and infighting among rival sand smugglers has resulted in 4 casualties. In addition, 2 persons were killed for opposing mining by sand smugglers while a sand truck helper died in police action. There have been 5 incidents of drowning in sand pits in which 8 people including a woman and 7 young kids have died.

At least 20 sand workers drowned in the two sand boats capsize incidents that took place in August 2021 and September 2021 in Chhapra. These are among the most tragic incidents in the state. Similarly, about 11 overloaded gravel trucks plunged into Ganga from a cargo ship stationed in Katihar district on the night of March 24, 2022 following which several persons including truck drivers, helpers had to jump off the vehicles. As per reports, several people managed to swim to banks while 10 remained missing and 2 dead bodies of them has been recovered by NDRF.   

Dalit people beaten up for opposing illegal sand mining in Flagu ruver, Gaya in July 2021. Image source: Live Magdah.

The story of Manibhushan Pratap Sengar, an advocate in Patna High Court, fighting against sand mafia is startling. He had pleaded to both central and state governments against removal of his security cover in view of looming threat from sand mafias but in vain.  The January 2022 day light gang war between two rival groups to establish supremacy on sand business from Sone river in Bhogpur resulted in death of 2 members. 

Further, the violent clash between villagers and police team in February 2022 in Gaya led to injuries to scores of people from both sides. The villagers were opposing sand mining survey work citing flood destruction from Morhar river during monsoon and instead of addressing their concerns, the administration suppressed villagers’ voice using police force.

W Bengal In W Bengal at least 40 people have lost their lives and 32 sustained injuries mainly in 6 road accidents involving sand and stone chips loaded trucks in the reporting period of Dec 2021 and March 2022. 32 of the deaths including those of 13 women and 5 children happened in just 2 road accidents (in Jalpaiguri in January 2021 and in Nadia in November 2021).

The road accident by sand truck in East Medinapur in March 2022 killing one person and injuring 7 others, triggered a violent spell in which agitated mob burnt down a police vehicle and blocked the National Highway. The horrific Birbhum massacre of March 21, 2022 in which 8 people were murdered is also being linked to illegal sand mining affairs in the state, however there is no official report on it so far. 

Jharkhand There have been 14 deaths and 3 injuries due to sand mining activities in Jharkhand in the reporting period. In a brutal crime, Rajkumar, a teenage boy of Devbandha village in Godda district was lynched to death in January 2021 by sand mafia for opposing sand mining impacting deceased farmland. The 16 year old elder sibling of handicapped poor parents was preparing for exams and supporting his family through daily wage work in the village.

Inter-state (Jharkhand-Uttar Pradesh) sand mafia racket is still active in Garhwa district which witnessed a major sand mining violence episode in May 2017 resulting in 5 deaths. In Dec 2021, the SDM had narrow escape when the sand mafia tried to mow him down under the truck during a raid.

In the same district 3 children were buried alive after a mound of mud caved in at Koiritola in Sharda village on Feb. 10, 2021 when they were playing on Turi rivulet bank. The extraction of sand was done at the site illegally through JCB machine. Shockingly aggrieved families were given just Rs 3000 and 1.5 quintals of rice as compensation.    

Odisha At least 5 people have been killed and 10 injured in sand mining related incidents in Odisha between Dec 2020 and March 2022. Out of the total, 5 deaths 4 injuries are a result of road accidents involving sand trucks. We could also find out about 7 reports of lethal attack on administration, particularly Tehsildars and Revenue Inspectors by sand mafias while 1 reporter has been grievously injured in stone mafia attack.

Killing of a sand lease holder in Jajpur district in bomb attack by illegal sand smuggler in March 2022 and mowing down of 80 goats of which 50 were killed by sand truck in Sep 2021 in Nayagarh district are some of the biggest tragedies underlining illegal sand mining in the state.

North East Additionally, about 9 people lost their lives (8 in Assam and 1 in Manipur) on account of road accidents involving sand transporting vehicles during aforesaid period as per available reports. The death of a 10 year old by sand truck in Dhubri district in January 2021 triggered violence in the Bilashipara area in which the angered locals burnt down three sand laden trucks, a gravel storage site, apart from blocking the road. The paramilitary forces were called in to control the tense situation. No relevant reports on the subject could be found from the other NE states of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland & Tripura. 

Summary of East & North East Zone

In East zone 137 people have died and 156 have suffered injuries on account of riverbed mining and transportation activities during December 2020 to March 2022. Here too, most of the deaths (85) and injuries (61) have been caused by road accidents involving sand delivery vehicles including trucks, dumpers.

West Zone: Sand Mining Violence & Accidents Highlights

Madhya Pradesh In Madhya Pradesh 22 people lost their lives while over 30 including 9 government officials suffered injuries on account of sand mining activities in 16 months since Dec 2020. The state seems to be facing a complete lawlessness situation vis a vis sand mining governance. The mafias have been fearlessly attacking government officials, mine contractors, private mining company staffs and even truck drivers. In some cases, lease holders have been caught in catch 22 situation. On one hand they are being terrorized by mafias on the other being harassed by corrupt police officials. 

The story of 85 year old Bhind farmer whose crops were damaged by Chambal sand mafia is upsetting. After local administration choose to remain unresponsive towards his pleas, he had to appeal to Prime Minister to save his crops.

Shardha Pandre, SDO, Forest Department, Morena alone survived 9 lethal attacks in just two months. She headed several raids to bust illegal sand mining operations before she was transferred. The incident of Khargone where 6 reporters were booked by administration for covering illegal sand mining further proves collapse of will to govern in the state. 

Rajasthan Despite Supreme Court prohibition on sand mining in Rajasthan till recently, at least 24 people have died and 12 have suffered injuries in illegal sand and stone mining related incidents in Rajasthan during the reporting period.  Most of the deaths -11 including 5 women – have taken place in 3 mine collapse incidents. The caving in of quartz stone mine in Bhilwara in August 2021 alone killed 7 labourers including 3 women. All deceased belonged to tribal community. Because of poverty and lack of other jobs they had no choice but to do the risky work in mines for survival. After the death of 2 women in an illegal sand mine collapse incident in Tonk in April 2021, villagers protested at block office demanding compensation to aggrieved families. They also blamed contractor for inadequate safety measures at mine site.

Gujarat At least 24 people have lost their lives and 12 suffered injuries due to sand mining excavation and transportation related incidents in Gujarat in the reporting period. The collision between trucks in Surat in January 2021 alone killed 15 Rajasthan migrant workers including 8 women and 1 infant. In the same month, 4 more labours were run over by a sand truck in Banaskantha district killing 2 of them. Both the incident highlights the plight of migrant labour force who are forced to spend lives on road pavements.

In November 2021, a dalit man from Batod was attacked by upper caste for seeking sand mine lease which shows sand businesses being run and controlled by influential people while weaker sections of society are either forced to suffer exploitation or face the adverse impacts of sand extraction.

Maharashtra During the reporting period, at least 8 people were killed on account of sand mining and transportation activities in Maharashtra. Most of the deaths (5) mainly of young children have occurred in 2 incidents of drowning in sand mine pits.

The first drowning incident took place on Feb 6, 2021 in which 4 children drowned in a deep pit caused by illegal sand mining in Sindphana river, a minor tributary of the Godavari in Gevrai tehsil of Beed district. The second incident happened on March 15, 2022 in Buldhana district where an 11 year child died after falling into pit formed by excessive dredging in Purna river. A mine contactor from Ahmednagar in March 2021 tried to commit suicide after efforts to seek refund for a sand mine contract (which did not materialise due to local opposition) failed.

Summary of West Zone

In West Zone at least 72 people have been killed and 67 got injured in sand mining related violence and accidents between December 2020 and March 2022. Nearly half of the death toll 42 is attributed to road accidents involving sand transporting vehicles which has also left 21 people injured including some with grievous injuries. About 17 deaths, mostly of children have occurred due to drowning in sand pits while mine collapse and accidents at mine sites have taken lives of 16 people.

In this period 2 people were killed and 2 others suffered injuries in sand mafia attacks while encounter and infighting took the lives of 2 people and left 03 injured. 42 government officials including police, forest and mine have either suffered injuries in attacks by sand mafia in this zone. More than half of the attacks and injuries (26) has occurred in Madhya Pradesh. Nearly half of the deaths in road accidents (21) have taken place in Gujarat followed by 11 in Madhya Pradesh and 9 in Rajasthan.

South Zone: Sand Mining Violence & Accidents Highlights

Karnataka Between Dec 2020 and March 2022, at least 19 people (including 15 women and a child) lost their lives while 17 suffered injuries in sand mining related violence and accidents in Karnataka. Additionally, 12 mine workers were killed in 2 blast incidents in stone quarry sites first in Shivamogga in January 2021 killing 6 mine workers and then in Chikkaballapur in February 2021 again killing 6 mine workers.

The deaths of 13 people including 11 women on a college reunion trip by over speeding  sand truck in January 2021 in Dharwad is among the most fatal accident in the state. In yet another horrific road accident, 6 people including 3 men, 2 women and a minor boy were killed when a rashly driven tipper truck carrying gravel overturned on 2 cars and a motorcycle in Bengaluru in January 2022. Similarly, in April 2021, a sand truck fell on railway track in Bengaluru raising a potential accident threat, however it was averted by alert staff. 

Telangana The available reports reveal death of at least 21 people on account of sand mining related incidents in Telangana between December 2020 and March 2022. In the past, the state has seen several protests against road accidents by sand trucks in Bhupalpally, Sircilla and Warangal districts. The situation has not improved much there. In Dec 2020, death of a person by a sand truck in Kamareddy, turned the mob violent who set the truck on fire & damaged several other vehicles. Police was called in to control the situation.

There were 6 violent attacks by sand mafia during this period. In April 2021, a dalit farmer Gaddala Madhu was stabbed to death by sand mafia when the former tried to stop illegal sand mining in Midgul Mandal of Mahabubnagar district. Then in December 2021, a Village Revenue Assisstant named Gautham was beaten to death by sand smugglers in Kandgaon village in Bodhan mandal in Nizamabad district when he tried to stop illegal sand mining. The day light murder of a lawyer couple in Peddapalli in February 2021 is also reportedly linked to sand mafia flourishing under political patronage.   

Tamil Nadu In Tamil Nadu, 19 people have died while 10 suffered injuries in sand mining related violence and accidents from December 2020 to March 2022. There have been at least 5 incidents of violent attack by sand mafias killing 2 Dalit youths and injuring 7 people including 2 government officials, 1 activist and 2 common citizens. A woman councillor and her father also survived injuries after assault by sand mafia for complaint against illegal mining.

The murder to 2 dalit youths from Ranipet in April 2021 resulted in agitation by affected community seeking the arrest of the accused and compensation to families. The victims were reportedly complaining against sand mining activities and objecting to speeding sand trucks moving through residential area.

In the same month,  C Palanisamy, a 35-year-old activist fighting against illegal sand mining in Murugaraja Nagar in Pudukottai district, was beaten up allegedly by family members of the panchayat president after he refused to give up the cause. In August 2021, a compromise meeting between two rival sand smuggler groups went haywire resulting in death of a member and injuries of 3 others in Devakottai taluk of Sivaganga district. In the same taluk, a revenue department employee suffered severe cut injuries when an armed gang assaulted him in January 2021.

Andhra Pradesh In May 2021, 10 workers were killed in a blast at a limestone quarry near Mamillapalli village under Kalasapadu mandal in Kadapa district. The incident revealed several such illegal stone quarries were functioning in the district and abject failure of administration to check these.

In July 2021, YSRCP local leaders reportedly attacked the staff of Jay Pee company awarded sand mining contract for refusing money from sand mining operations in various districts. Strangely, company’s complaint was not registered by the police.

Trucks stuck in Krishna river floodwaters at a sand quarry near Chevitickallu in Krishna district in August 2021. Image The Hans India

The state has also seen a big man-made disaster in August 2021 when sudden discharges from Pulichintala project created flash flood in Krishna river trapping around 135 sand trucks. Fortunately around 300 people including truck drivers, helpers, and mine workers were rescued. As per the drivers there was no warning given to them about the water discharge. The incident shows serious irregularities and violations in mining and dam operations.

Kerala The story of policeman TK Muhammad Shafiq is quite tragic. He had led several operations against sand mafia and was bed ridden for 24 years after fatally injured by an unknown vehicle. 

Summary of South Zone

The 5 south Indian states have seen at least 64 deaths and 30 injuries on account of sand mining related violence and accidents between December 2020 and March 2022. 47 people were killed and 9 had injuries due to road accidents involving sand mining vehicles in this period. Out of total, just 3 states of Karnataka (19), Telangana (21) and Tamil Nadu (19) accounted for 59 deaths and all 30 injuries.

The accidents and mine collapse incidents have taken lives of 25 people mainly mine workers of which 23 casualties have taken place in stone mining quarries in Karnataka (12) and Andhra Pradesh (10). Moreover, 7 people died drowning in sand mine pits, 6 of them in Telangana.

The zone has also seen 8 people being murdered by sand mafias including 5 common citizens, 1 activist and 2 government officials while 21 people getting injured in attacks by sand miners which includes 10 common citizens, 2 activists and 6 government officials. 

Zonal Summary & Highlights

The conclusion of zonal summary reveals that at least 418 people have lost their lives while 434 have sustained injuries in sand mining related violence and accidents in India during December 2020 and March 2022. In addition, 51 deaths and 4 injuries were related to stone and soil mining incidents in the same period. Therefore the total figures under both category would come to 469 deaths and 438 injuries in the period Dec 2020 to March 2022 as can be in the table above.

Map by Siddharth Agarwal, Veditum India depicting state wise death toll due to sand mining related activities in India from Dec. 2020 to March 2022.

Sand Laden Trucks Proving a Major Killer

The road accidents involving sand transporting vehicle namely trucks, tippers, lorries, hyvas, tractors etc. have emerged as the biggest reason behind large number of casualties and injuries across the country taking away 294 precious lives while leaving 221 people injured mostly with grievous injuries which is 70% and 50% of total fatalities and injuries during the reporting period.

Most of the accidents have taken place in late night and early morning hours. Illegal mining, overloading, over speeding, rash driving, poor fitness of vehicles, over worked drivers, wrongly parked sand trucks along roads are among the main reasons behind high numbers of such accidents and resultant causalities. In some cases the absence of proper sign boards and faulty road designs have also led to fatal accidents by sand laden trucks. The fatalities include truck drivers, helpers, common citizens travelling through public, private modes of transport.

Sand truck-bus crash in Barabanki, UP in Oct. 2021.

In rural areas plying of heavy sand loaded vehicles on narrow, poorly maintained roads which are built for lighter traffic have seemingly become death dispensing machines. Further, the interior roads damaged by heavy mining vehicles have made them accident prone. In many cases, motorcyclists have been crushed to death by sand laden trucks. There have been several accidents when sand, gravel laden vehicles toppled over roadside helmets, shops and other vehicles thus burying unaware people to death.

Attempts to evade police actions and to complete more trips are also adding into such avoidable accidents. There are several road accidents in mining affected areas where vehicles have not been identified or death toll and injuries have not taken place.

In terms of zone wise causalities and injuries in road accidents by sand trucks, the North and East zone have collectively seen 66% total deaths and 86% percent of total injuries while the West and South zones have accounted for 34% of deaths and 14% of injuries.

The Kaushambi (December 2020), Dharwad, Jalpaiguri, Surat (January 2021) Barabanki (October 2021) accidents involving sand loaded trucks are five most deadly accidents killing nearly 65 people and injuring over 50.

There have been many incidents when fatal accidents by sand trucks have triggered violent protests against administration by common public resulting in damages to several other vehicles and causing hours long traffic jams on national highways essentially bringing law and order situation under threat to control which police, para military forces resorted to lathi charge as retaliatory move.

Sadly, these accidents are poorly and improperly reported as routine accidents and goes without follow ups on critically injured persons whereas the administration can prevent most of these tragic killings just by ensuring compliance of mining norms and traffic rules.

Workers Dying in Mine Accidents  

After road accidents by sand trucks, the mishaps at sand and stone mining sites including caving in of mining sites, blast and boat capsize incidents have become second major cause of deaths and injuries killing nearly 95 people mostly mine workers (56 in sand mining and 39 in stone mining incidents) and injuring 21 (17 in sand mining & 4 in stone mining activities) in India between December 2020 and March 2022. The North (19) and East (35) have witnessed 54 of total deaths and 20 of total injuries while 41 people were killed in West (16) and South (25) zones in this period due to such mishaps. 

The victims are mostly from economically and socially weaker sections, tribal people and migrant labours. Be it sand mines or stone quarries, they are exposed to health hazards, life threatening risks without adequate safety gears and fair payments. 

Tractor involved in illegal sand mining in Khrang river, Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh) turned over killing driver on the spot in March 2022. Image ABP Live.

Nearly 20 mine workers were drowned in two sand boat drowning incidents that occurred in August & September 2021 in Chhapra, Bihar. 8 workers including 2 women and 3 kids were buried to death in four sand mine collapse incidents that happened in Tikamgarh, MP; Garhwa, Jharkhand in February 2021; Banda, UP in March 2021; and in Tonk, Rajasthan in April 2021.

Similarly, 12 mine workers lost their lives due to caving in of stone mines in Bhilwara, Rajasthan in August 2021 and rockslide at Dadam stone mines in Bhiwani, Haryana in January 2022. The 3 blast incidents at stone quarries in Shivamogga & Chikkaballpur, Karnataka in January-February 2021;  and Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh in May 2021 took the lives of 22 stone mine workers.

There are reports highlighting casualties and exploitation of sand and stone mine workers in Haldwani, Uttarakhand and Chitrakoot, UP.

Dams Flooding Mines without Warning

The role of Larji dam and riverbed mining resulting in death of 24 engineering students from Hyderabad in June 2014 in Himachal is well known. Still the dam operators seem to have learnt no lesson from the disaster. In past one year, there have been two similar accidents in which fortunately over 300 mine workers, drivers were timely rescued.

Mine workers trapped in Sharda floods after heavy discharge from Sharda barrage Champawat in May 2021. Image Source: ETV Bharat.

First in May 2021, the sudden discharge from Sharda barrage in Champawat, Uttarakhand washed away about 12 mine workers of which 9 were rescued but 3 lost their lives. Deluge also washed away several tents of mine workers, their belongings and savings apart from four mining vehicles. A similar incident had taken place in June 2020. Similarly, in August 2021, the heavy water releases from Pulichintala dam in Andhra Pradesh created flash flood in Krishna river in which over 300 truck drivers, helpers were trapped.

Sand Pits Proving Death Traps for Children

Between December 2020 and March 2022, at least 48 persons including 43 children have died after drowning in deep sand mining pits. 14 of these deaths have taken place in North Zone, 10 in East, 17 in West and 7 in South Zone.

Images of few kids who died after drowning in deep sand pits in India between Dec. 2020 to March 2022.

Such pits in riverbed created by excessive mining are proving death traps for children who unaware of the depth visit river banks for playing or bathing as usual but suddenly slip inside the deep pits thus dying on the spot.

The mining affected areas of Guala, Malan, Sukhro, Khoh rivers in Uttarakhand, Yamuna in Haryana, Ken in Uttar Pradesh, Sone in Bihar, Godavari in Telangana, Krishna in Andhra Pradesh have particularly witnessing frequent drowning deaths in deep sand mine pits.

Sand Mafias Turning More Powerful, Violent

Despite lockdown restrictions, the illegal sand mining activities and attacks by sand mafias have only gone up. At least 12 common citizens, farmers were killed and 53 suffered injurious assaults by sand mafias in India during December 2020 and March 2022. Similarly the gang wars and infighting among rival sand smugglers resulted in death of 5 members while 2 were killed in counter attack by police teams.  

Additionally, the brazen murder of lawyer couple in Telangana in February 2021 and killings of 8 people in Birbhum, West Bengal in March 2022 is being linked to sand mafias and illegal sand mining activities flourishing there under political patronage.   

About 10 reporters and activists have also faced tyranny of sand mafias in this period. While 2 media persons in Haridwar, Uttarakhand in March 2021, 5 in Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh in May 2021 survived lethal attacks by sand mafia; 6 reporters in Khargone, MP in July 2021 and 1 in Banda, UP throughout the year, were harassed by administration for exposing illegal sand mining.

At the same time, 2 government officials (a VRA in Nizamabad, Telangana in December 2021, and a cop in Kerala in November 2021; 24 years after a fatal accident) have died and 126 faced attacks by sand mafias in this period. Of total attacks most have taken place in East zone (58) followed by West (41) and North (21) including officials from police, revenue, forest and mining departments.

Overall, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are particularly infested by sand mafia gangs who have strong nexus with police officials and politicians. The story of Sharda Pandre, SDO, Morena, MP is worth mentioning. She spearheaded several raids to rein in illegal sand mining despite facing repeated attacks by sand mafia. However, she was transferred within 3 months of her posting.  

Lastly, the riparian communities including boatmen, fisherfolks, farmers whose livelihoods depend on rivers have been badly affected by sand mining. They have been subjected to oppression by administration and violence by sand smugglers.

The reports of crack down on Nishad community securing mining right claims in Ganga, Prayagraj (February 2021); attack on dalit families for objecting to mining in Falgu river, Gaya (July 2021); harassment of Usha Nishad for raising illegal mining issue in Ken river, Banda (November 2021);  murder of dalit farmer in Telangana for protesting against illegal mining (December 2021); and violence between Adhatpur villagers and police force in Gaya (February 2022) are among few examples on victimization of dependent communities by both state machinery and sand mafias.

Sadly, given the political economy, revenue oriented policies, collapse of governance, politicians-admin-mafias nexus amid rising consumption, the sand mining related violence and accidents are only likely go up causing death & injuries to precious human lives in coming years.  

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

Note:- The figures compiled here are indicative based on various media reports we have come across for the reporting period so far. There could be several more sand mining violence and death incidents going unreported, being reported as routine accidents without revealing critical information or have remained uncovered by us. Also there is hardly any follow ups on people critically injured in attacks by mafias and hit by sand trucks. The actual death toll and injuries by unabated riverbed mining activities in India could be much higher than the numbers mentioned here.

8 thoughts on “India Sand Mining: Violence & Accidents Killed 418 People in 16 Months 

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