Sand Mining

2023: Riverbed Mining Deaths & Violence in South India

(Feature Image: The spot where the 7 girls were drowned (in sand mine pit) at A. Kuchipalayam, near Cuddalore, in Tamil Nadu on June 5, 2022. The Hindu)

This report (fourth part of our series on this subject in 2023) summarizes the detailed compilation tracking the human death toll and violent incidents related to illegal and unsustainable riverbed mining activities in Southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in 11 months between April 2022 and February 2023. The first three parts of the series have covered sand mining related human casualties and violence in North, East and West Zones for the same period.

Tamil Nadu

The available media reports reveal that at least 15 have died in Tamil Nadu on account of sand mining related accidents and violence between April 2022 and February 2023. There have been 2 major road accidents first on 08 May 2022 in Trichy and second on 17 September 2022 in Salem by sand carrying vehicles killing 8 people and causing injuries to 11 persons in the state during this period.

In a tragic incident, 7 young girls drowned to death in a sand mine pit in Gedilam near Nellikuppam in Cuddalore district on 5 June 2022. The pit was reportedly created during construction of check dam on the river there. In one more incident, Movement for Anti-Illegal Stone Quarries alleged illegal sand mine pits a reason behind the drowning death of 4 girl students of a government middle school downstream Mayanur barrage on the Cauvery river in Karur district on 15 February 2023. However, given the inadequate information the death toll is excluded in this summary for the state. Similarly, 2 school students were drowned in a water-filled stone quarry pit at Kaliyapuram near KG Chavadi in Coimbatore on 24 June 2022.

The state has also seen 2 incidents of attack and threat to activist and farmers by illegal sand miners. In the first such incident Sadiq Hussain who used Google images portraying illegal sand mining locations was brutally attacked on 17 December 2022 in Meenambur area of Gingee in Villupuram district. The assault was done by the son of a panchayat president and his men as the act by the whistle-blower had exposed the involvement of culprit’s family members in illegal sand mining activities.

In second incident SK Arumai Raj, district secretary of Tamilaga Anaithu Vivasayigal Sangam was threatened in February 2023 for complaining against damages to a waterbody and government porambokke lands at Ottudanpatti village in Kayathar taluk of Thoothukudi district by illegal gravel miners engaged for installation of a windmill on private lands. The farmer’s body also alleged that the police had released two lorries which were seized and handed over to them by farmers for conducing illegal mining.

In addition to 15 sand mining related deaths, at least 4 people have died in 2 incidents of illegal stone mining in the state in past 11 months. In first case, 3 stone workers were killed in rockslide incident on 14 May 2022 at stone mining site in Adaimithipankulam near Munneerpallam of Tirunelveli district. Overall 6 workers were trapped about 300 feet deep in the mine under the boulders and debris but only three could be saved over week long rescue operation.

Tamil Nadu: Six workers trapped beneath a boulder following landslide in Tirunelveli stone quarry. Photo: V Karthikalagu, EPS, May 15, 2022

As per a survivor, a rock fall incident had taken place at the site about 20 days back raising safety concerns which were ignored by the senior staff. He also said that the death toll could have been higher if the accident had occurred in morning hours when more workers stay at work. The probe also found it a preventable disaster revealing the owner had mined three times more and increased the mine depth from 50 metres to 110 metres, much higher than permitted. The Charnockite stone extracted from the quarry is being used for making M Sand.

In second case, an activist R. Jaganathan fighting against illegal stone quarries, was crushed to death on 10 September 2022 by a truck belonging to a quarry, at Kuppam near K. Paramathi in Karur district just day after an illegal quarry situated near Kalipalayam, was closed on his complaints. After mowing down the activist, the assailants tried to portray the intentional murder as a road accident. The same culprits had lethally attacked the activist in 2019, yet he was given no protection by the police.


In Karnataka 4 persons have lost their lives in 3 road accidents involving sand transporting vehicles. While a Rathnamma, a 60 year old woman was crushed to death between a sand truck and a compound wall in front of her house in Kithaganur near Hosakote Taluk in Rural Bengaluru on 25 July 2022; a college girl Sadia was mowed down by a sand-laden truck on 2 August 2022 on Fort Road in Belagavi. After the incident, local residents protested as the bar on heavy vehicles entering the city from 6 am to 6 pm is not implemented strictly.

2 people killed after sand tipper overturned at Wadi in Chittapur taluk of Kalaburagi on Feb. 08, 2023. Public TV

In the third accident, 2 people, including a 12-year-old boy, were killed by a sand tipper overturned after it was stuck in a drain at Wadi in Chittapur taluk of Kalaburagi on 8 Feb 2023) night. In a separate incident, a 21-year-old youth from Jokatte area in Mangaluru drowned to death in a water-logged stone quarry on 24 July 2022.


The 2 road accidents by minor minerals transporting trucks have resulted in the death of 3 people in Telangana between April 2022 and February 2023. In the first incident, 2 drivers were killed and another person sustained injuries when a gravel tipper lorry fell off a bridge after colliding with a container truck at Kupti village of Neradigonda mandal in Adilabad on 5 Nov 2022. In the same month, an unidentified person was crushed to death by a speeding sand lorry at Sarapaka in Burgampad mandal in the Kothagudem dist on 20 Nov 2022.

Two groups of Sand Mafia entered into heated arguments and later exchanged blows against each other for exhibiting their upper hand to dig illegal sand at Workur Reach in Maganoor mandal of Narayanpet district, Telangana. The Hans India, Feb. 26, 2023

The state has also seen 3 incidents of violent attacks on women activist and government officials by illegal sand miners in the past 11 months. First on 2 July 2022, a tribal woman, Sridevi, from Madanapur mandal in Wanaparthy district was brutally attacked for opposing illegal sand mining. The police instead of acting on her complaint allegedly threatened to foist false case on her and asked to withdraw the complaint.

In the same month, Venkatalakshmi, in-charge forest range officer and her driver in Dammapeta of Kothagudem could manage to save their lives when illegal sand miners attacked her and set ablaze her jeep during a surprise check 4 July 2022 night. In third incident, illegal sand mafia attacked a woman’s VRA on 7 July 2022 in Mollachintapalli, Kolhapur mandal of Nagar Kurnool district. Additionally, there has been an incident of infighting among two rival groups for exhibiting their upper hand to dig illegal sand on on Pedda Wagu river at Workur Reach in Maganoor mandal of Narayanpet dist on 26 Feb 2023.

Andhra Pradesh

In Andhra Pradesh, a dalti activist was severely injured, a village youth was murdered and forest department was attacked by illegal sand miners in 3 different sand mining related violent incidents during past 11 months. Firstly, Chevvukula Venkateswara Rao, a 35-year-old Dalit RTI activist from Chintalamarri village in BR Ambedkar Konaseema district was assaulted by MLA Rapaka Varaprasad, his gunman and some policemen on 30 July 2022 causing injuries to his eyes, nose, hands and thighs. The activist had reportedly filed complaints against illegal sand mining done by the MLA and his associates and had faced threats for the same in past. Surprisingly, Rao was also arrested by the Malikipuram police.

Dead body of A. Kishan, aged 33 was found at a sand mining area in Ellapalle Village under Gangadhar Nellore mandal of Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh. According to the locals, when Kishan tried to prevent the illegal sand mining and stop their activities at the agricultural lands, he was killed by the sand mafia. Telugu360, Aug. 19, 2022

In second sand mining violence incident in the state, local people held sand mafia responsible for the murder of A. Kishan, a 33 year old youth from Ellapalle Village in Gangadhar Nellore mandal of Chittoor. The incident occurred on 18 August 2022. As per villagers Kishan had objected to illegal sand mining on his agricultural lands. His dead body was found at a sand mining area of the village. The villagers had many a time asked the administration to get the sand mining stopped in village area as it was lowering the groundwater table thus affecting their borewells but in vain.

Also, on 06 December 2022, illegal miners attacked forest officials in Tarigonda under Madanapalle mandal of Annamaiya district when they tried to stop the smuggling of sand.


A college student was beaten up for filming illegal sand mining near her home in Marady locality under Muvattupuzha town in Ernakulum district on 17 June 2022 while a migrant worker was killed after sand-laden truck overturned at Kattangal near Chathamangalam in Kozhikode on 9 October 2022.

Table: Sand Mining Deaths & Violence in South India between April 2022 & Feb 2023

StatesDrowning 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 mafiaTotal death
Tamil Nadu07NA02/11/0802/02/00NA15
Andhra PradeshNANANA02/01/0101/01/0001

NA* Not Available


On the basis of media reports we could track, there has been death of at least 24 persons in sand mining related accidents and violence in 5 states of South India including Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala between April 2022 and February 2023.

Maximum deaths 15 and injuries 11 have taken place in 07 road accidents involving sand transporting vehicles followed by 07 death in a single incident of drowning in sand pits while 01 during mishaps at mining site and 01 due to assault by illegal sand miners.

Tamil Nadu has seen the most human deaths at 15 including 8 deaths and 11 injuries in 2 road accidents by sand carrying vehicles. All the 7 drowning deaths have also happened in Tamil Nadu in a single incident taking place in Gedilam near Nellikuppam in Cuddalore district on 5 June 2022.

Muvattupuzha: A college girl who filmed illegal sand mining near her home in Muvattupuzha faced the wrath of land mafia. Akshaya, a degree student of of Nirmala College, was allegedly beaten and threatened by Ansari for filming illegal sand mining in Marady. Mathrubhumi, June 17, 2022.

TN has also witnessed deaths due to illegal mining and transportation of M sand. Additionally at least 5 people including 3 workers, 2 students lost their lives on account of mishaps at stone mining site and drowning in stone quarry pits while 1 activist was murdered for opposing illegal stone quarries in TN in the reporting period.

The region has also seen at least 9 incidents of attacks by illegal sand miners causing death of common man and injuries or threat to 7 people including 3 government officials. At least 4 women including a dalit activist, 2 government officials a forest ranger, a village VRA in Telangana and 1 college student in Kerala have faced attacks by illegal sand miners in the region in past 11 months.

Chevvukula Venkateswara Rao, 35 year old Dalit RTI activist from Chintalamarri village in Andhra Pradesh’s BR Ambedkar Konaseema district was severely injured in attack by MLA Rapaka Varaprasad, his gunman and other police on July 30, 2022 for his complaints against illegal sand mining. TNM

In Andhra Pradesh too, a dalit activist suffered fatal injuries while a common man was killed for raising voice against illegal sand mining. The reports also reveal how inaction by administration and involvement of politicians in illegal sand mining affairs are resulting in attacks and deaths of common people in the region.

There have been several fatal road accidents in these states by tippers and lorries causing deaths and injuries to innocent people. However the media reports continue to miss key details while reporting such incidents.  We could not find reports on sand mining related deaths and violence from the Puducherry, Andaman & Nicobar, Lakshadweep union territories for the reporting period.  

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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