Sand Mining

2023: Riverbed Mining Death & Violence in North India

( A dumper driver being rescued from smashed cabin of a dumper after it rammed into a stationary sand loaded truck causing death of a mechanic in Varanasi in May 2022. Source: Amar Ujala)

The unsustainable and unlawful riverbed mining activities in India have not only been damaging the precious river eco-systems, livelihoods of riparian communities and crucial public infrastructures but also have been causing untimely, avoidable deaths of innocent people including common citizens, villagers, farmers, activists, reporters and government officials.

For the past five years, SANDRP has been trying to track the sand mining related deaths and violence in India. Like previous years, we have prepared a compilation of reports and this summary report on human death toll due to sand mining related violence and accidents during April 2022 and February 2023 in North Indian states and Union Territories including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir and Delhi. We would publish similar reports for North East & East, West, South Zones and final summary report on the topic soon. 

State wise summary Below we have given state wise summary of sand mining death & violence incidents in North India between April 2022 & February 2023.

Uttar Pradesh

On the basis of reports we could track, there have been death of at least 46 persons in Uttar Pradesh between April 2022 and February 2023 due to riverbed mining related incidents. Maximum 36 deaths and injuries to 83 persons have been caused by 21 road accidents involving sand transporting vehicles followed by death of at least 6 children due to drowning in deep sand mine pits in this period.

UP has also seen death of 2 women during action against illegal sand miners including death of a woman by police bullets in Chandauli in May 2022 and death of a woman by mining officer vehicle in Sonbhadra in December 2022.

Of total road accident deaths, 14 have taken place in just three incidents, one at Kushinagar in June 2022 when a passenger bus rammed into stationary sand truck causing death of 4 persons and injuries to 25; second at Rae Bareli in July 2022 when a sand laden truck overturned on a car killing 5 member of a family and third at Etawah in October 2022 when a bus ran into sand loaded truck causing death of 5 passengers. Overall, 75 persons have suffered injuries in road accidents due to sand mining vehicles in the reporting period.

Front portion of sleeper bus that ran into a sand laden dumper resulting in death of 5 passengers & injuries to 45 persons on Agra-Lucknow expressway in Etawah in Oct. 2022. Image source: News Track

The over-speeding, wrongly parked and driven sand vehicles have become a big reason for untimely death of scores of people in UP. In the past 11 months several innocent people have been killed by sand laden dumpers and trucks which includes death of a pregnant woman in Agra in July 2022; death of a school student in Bareilly in September 2022 and death of a minor kid in Saharanpur, October 2022. Even a home guard has been crushed to death by a dumper involved in illegal sand mining in Ghagra river in Ambedkar Nagar in January 2023.

The accidents at mining sites have also led to death of 2 workers; one each in Banda in May 2022 and Mahoba in June 2022 while a dumper driver was killed in road accident in Auraiya in February 2023.

Of 6 drowning deaths of young children, 2 have taken place in Ganga river in Unnao in September 2022, 2 in Shahjahanpur district in November 2022 and 2 in Fatehpur in February 2023 due to deep sand mine pits. Apart from these, we could find 4 incidents of threats, attacks and injuries of government officials including forest, mining and police in UP in these 11 months. Also a sand mafia suffered bullet injury during an encounter in Agra in October 2022.


In Uttarakhand at least 6 people lost their lives in mining related incidents in the reporting period. The death toll includes death by drowning of two youths (one in Dhela river, Ramnagar in May 2022 and second in Tons river, Dehradun in Oct. 2022) in riverbed mining pits. A driver was killed in US Nagar in June 2022 due to collision between brick and minor minerals loaded vehicles while another driver was electrocuted during unloading of sand in Roorkee in November 2022.  

Local people blocking highway in Kashipur, Uttarakhand protesting against death of a woman during a raid by Muradabad police to catch a sand mafia in Oct. 2022. Image Source: The Quint

There was death of woman in controversial raid incident between illegal miner and Moradabad police and brazen murder of a sand trader in Kashipur both in October 2022 reveal gradual rise in mining related murders and criminal activities particularly in tarai areas of US Nagar and Nainital districts.

There have been 3 incidents of violent attack on forest department and administration in these two districts in November-December 2022 and February 2023. Further, as per the July 2022 Hindi report the government officials in Kumaon region have faced 44 incidents of attacks by illegal miners in past 6 years. Apart from this, the illegal miners from Uttarakhand were involved in beating and abduction of Himachal Pradesh mining official in Poanta Sahib in May 2022. The attack on Bairagarh villagers, Pauri in June 2022 for objecting to mining during night hours shows how fearless the mineral mafias have become.

Himachal Pradesh

In the reporting period at least 5 people have lost their lives during transportation of minor minerals. We could find 4 incidents of mining mafia attacking on government, panchayat officials and an activist for opposing illegal riverbed mining activities.

Illegal miners attacking forest guard at Poanta Sahib in May 2022. Image Source: Punjab Kesari

The Ponta Sahib area of Sirmour district has seen two incidents of attacks on forest, police and mining department teams for initiating actions against illegal mining in Yamuna river in May 2022. The abduction of mining official on 11 May 2022 from Ponta Sahib by illegal miners is quite shocking and shows how unruly the illegal miners have become. Notably, the area bordering Uttarakhand has become notorious for illegal mining of riverbed minerals.

HP also saw violent attack on village panchayat members in Palampur for objecting to illegal mining in Neugal river in September 2022. In October 2022, the illegal miners also tried to mow down Suryabanshi Thakur who has been raising the issue of illegal mining in Beas river for the past 8 years.   


Illegal mining of sand and stone is rampant across Haryana, so are the incidents of attacks on government officials and death of innocent people in sand mining pits. The most shocking violent incident in the state took place in July 2022 when Surendar Singh, Twadu DSP was crushed to death while stopping illegal stone miners in Nuh district. In another similar incident, the Manoj Kumar, DSP escaped lethal attack in Karnal in first week of February 2023 when illegal sand miners tried to run a dumper over him.

Karnal DSP Manoj Kumar claims illegal miners tried to mow him down during an inspection against illegal sand mining. Image Source: ANI

The mining department officials in Ambala have faced several attacks by sand mafia all through the year 2022. Similar incidents have also taken place in Mahendragarh in August 2022 and Palwal in October 2022. The illegal miners have also attacked farmers in Yamuna Nagar in November 2022.  Apart from this, the deep pits created in Yamuna river by excessive mining have resulted in death of 6 people (2 in Yamuna Nagar in May 2022 and 4 in Sonipat in September 2022) of which 5 were young boys.

In addition to the drowning deaths, a stock in-charge at Mimarpur mine site in Sonipat on Yamuna river was killed in June 2022 by the manager of the company who himself had faced lethal attack days before the incident. The exact reason for attack on manager is unknown but often the persons with criminal back ground work on mining sites.


At least 5 people including 2 farmers have died in sand mining related incidents in Punjab in the reporting period. Both the farmers (first in Hoshiyarpur in March 2022 and then in Mohali in February 2023) were killed for opposing illegal sand mining activities. Apart from this 3 other farmers were attacked by illegal sand miners in Firozpur in September 2022.

Gurcharan Singh a 60-year-old farmer leader was mowed down by a tractor-trailer while he was trying to stop some people from carrying out illegal sand mining in the village common land in Badana village in Dera Bassi area on Feb. 16, 2023. Image Source: TIE

We could find 4 incidents of violent attacks on government officials by illegal sand miners. In first such incident a forest department team was attacked in Mohali in August 2022 in which an official was severely injured. Then two staff of mining department were misbehaved with and threatened when the team visited Kot Sidhu village in Amritsar to check illegal sand mining in September 2022. In January 2023, a group of miners were booked for attempt to murder a forest guard for stopping them from illegal sand mining in Sutlej river, Ludhiana. Same month, a staff of the mining department in Abohar area of Fazilka district faced attack possibly by mining mafia persons.   

In addition to these, the state has also seen a violent incident between police and villagers and members of Illakka Sangharsh Committee in Bhalaan villager under Nangal area of Ropar district in November 2022. The villagers were protesting against mining in Swan river and seeing no halt in mining operations resorted to stone pelting on involved vehicles and machinery after which the police officials already deputed at the site opened lathi charge to disburse the protestors causing serious injury to one of the protesters. Also 3 members of a family were killed in a fatal road accident involving sand, stone transporting truck in SBS Nagar in August 2022.

Jammu & Kashmir and Delhi

The Union Territory of J&K has witnessed death of 3 children in deep pits created by excessive mining in riverbeds in June and July 2022. In Delhi 2 friends killed, 3 severely injured when their car ran into stationary sand laden dumper in Swaroop Nagar in June 2022. We could not find riverbed mining related accidents reports from the UTs of Ladakh and Chandigarh.

Summary Table: Sand Mining Deaths & Violence in North India between April 2022 & February 2023

States/ UTsNo. of drowning incidents/ injury/ deaths in sand mine pitsNo. mishaps at mine sites/ injury/ deathsNo. of road accidents/ injury/ deaths due to sand transporting vehiclesNo. of attacks/ injuries/ deaths of citizens/ activists/ reporters by illegal sand minersNo. of attacks/ injury/ deaths of govt. officials due to sand mafiaNo. of incidents injury/ death of illegal sand miners in infighting & police encounter Total death
Uttar Pradesh03/03/0602/00/0221/83/3602/00/02*06/04/0001/01/0046
Himachal PradeshNANA03/02/0502/03/0002/02/00NA05
Jammu & Kashmir03/00/03NANANANANA03

 NA* Not Available


At least 74 people have been killed in riverbed mining related violence and accidents in North India between April 2022 and February 2023. The state of Uttar Pradesh have seen maximum 46 human deaths due to sand mining related accidents in this period. Maximum deaths 48 and injuries to 89 people have taken place in 28 road accidents involving sand transporting vehicles including dumpers, trucks and tractors. Of total road accidents death 36 have taken place in Uttar Pradesh.

JCB removing sand from a truck which overturned on a car killing five family members in Rae Bareli, UP in July 2022. Image Source: Aaj Tak

After road accidents, drowning in deep sand mine pits have become a big reason of untimely death of innocent people as at least 17 persons mostly young teens and youths have lost their lives in deep sand mine pits in past 11 months. Of total drowning deaths, maximum 6 have occurred in Haryana in Yamuna river, 6 in Uttar Pradesh and 2 in Uttarakhand.

More than of half of the drowning deaths, 8 have happened in Yamuna river alone including 4 in Sonipat, 2 in Yamuna Nagar in Haryana and 2 in Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh in this period. In previous year, such incidents were not reported from J&K but the UT has witnessed death of three young children in just 2 months of June-July 2022. 

Incidents related to opposition of illegal sand mining and mining related disputes have resulted in death of 7 citizens in the region. While 2 farmers have been killed in Punjab by illegal miners, 3 women lost their lives during controversial actions by Uttar Pradesh police and mining department official.

There have been about 22 incidents of threats and attacks on forest, mining and police teams in Uttar Pradesh (6), Haryana (6), Punjab (4) and Uttarakhand (4) and Himachal Pradesh (2) by illegal miners impacting at least 15 government officials in the reporting period.

Dainik Bhaskar Sept. 2022 news clip on death of 4 persons in sand mine pits Yamuna river in Sonipat during idol immersion. It also mentions 8 similar deaths at Mimarpur & Bega ghats in the river since Aug. 2018.

The illegal miners have particularly become fearless in Haryana state where DSP, Nuh has been crushed to death in July 2022 for taking action against illegal stone mining and DSP, Karnal had narrow escape from being run over by sand mining dumper in February 2023. The government officials in Ambala, Palwal and Mahendragarh districts have also faced multiple attacks by illegal miners in past one year.

Similarly, the illegal miners have frequently attacked the government officials in Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh and plain areas of Nainital and US Nagar districts in Uttarakhand.

Apart from these, the farmers in Punjab and Haryana, village representatives and an activist in Himachal and Uttarakhand have faced threats and injuries for objecting to illegal mining of riverbed minerals. 

Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat (

Note:- The figures presented 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 riverbed mining activities could be much higher than the numbers mentioned here.

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