(Feature Image: Agitated people clashing with police force after a 27 year old person was crushed to death by a speeding truck transporting sand from Subarnarekha river in Dahmura area under Gopivallabhpur in West Mednapore district in Feb. 2023. The report also mentioned about 12 policemen getting injured in the incident. Image Source: TV9 )
Rivers eco-system in India have been facing significant destruction and threats from unsustainable and illegal mining of minor minerals. Quarrying of riverbeds for gravels, sand, stones, murram by giant machines has not only been disturbing the surface flows, groundwater recharge functions of the rivers but also damaging essential infrastructure including bridges, embankments, drinking and irrigational water supply facilities.
The dependent aquatic species, riverine wildlife and riparian communities all are at the receiving end of the unaccounted and unaddressed impacts of destructive riverbed mining practices. Moreover, the brazen mining and transportation operations have also been resulting in avoidable accidents and violent incidents causing untimely deaths and grievous injuries to hundreds of people.
To improve the riverbed mining governance in the country, SANDRP has been monitoring these adverse impacts for past many years. In 2023, we have documented the threats of riverbed mining on aquatic eco-system, damages to river based infrastructure, communities resistance against destructive mining and judicial interventions to make the regulators accountable.
We have tracked the riverbed mining related violence and accidents between April 2022 and February 2023 in the country in zone wise manner. This is the final summary report of overall human casualties on account of illegal and unsustainable mining of riverbed minerals in past 11 months.
Please also see, SANDRP previous three reports (1) 193 dead in River Sand Mining incidents in India in 2019-20 (2) Sand & Stone Mining: 45 lives lost in fatal accidents in a week (3) India Sand Mining Dec 2020 to March 2022: Violence & Accidents Killed 418 People in 16 Months on the issue.
North Zone Summary
The North Zone is comprised of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir and Delhi where at least 74 people have been killed in riverbed mining related violence and accidents between April 2022 and February 2023. Maximum deaths 48 have taken place in 28 road accidents involving sand transporting vehicles including dumpers, trucks and tractors which has also caused injuries to at least 89 people.
The state of Uttar Pradesh has seen maximum 46 human deaths in this period of which 36 casualties and 83 injuries have occurred due to 21 road accidents by sand transporting vehicles.
10 incidents of drowning in deep sand mine pits have led to untimely death of 17 persons mostly young teens and youths in the past 11 months. Of total drowning deaths, 6 each have happened in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh followed by 3 in J&K and 2 in Uttarakhand.
More than of half of the drowning deaths in riverbed mining pits, 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.
The region has also witnessed about a dozen violent attacks on villagers, citizens for opposing illegal sand mining resulting in death of 7 common citizens and injuries to 9 others. While 2 farmers have been killed in Punjab by illegal miners, 3 women lost their lives during controversial action by Uttar Pradesh police and mining department officials.
There have been over 20 incidents attacks or threats on government officials during action against illegal riverbed mining which has impacted at least 15 officials from forest, police, revenue and mining departments in the reporting period.
More information and the detailed tabular report on riverbed mining related deaths and violence can be seen in the summary report for North Zone.
Riverbed Mining Deaths & Violence in North India between April 2022 & Feb 2023
|States/ UTs||No. of drowning incidents/ injury/ deaths in sand mine pits||No. mishaps at mine sites/ injury/ deaths||No. of road accidents/ injury/ deaths due to sand transporting vehicles||No. of attacks/ injuries/ deaths of citizens/ activists/ reporters by illegal sand miners||No. of attacks/ injury/ deaths of govt. officials due to sand mafia||No. of incidents injury/ death of illegal sand miners in infighting & police encounter||Total death|
|Jammu & Kashmir||03/00/03||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||03|
NA* Not Available
East Zone Summary
The states of Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh in East Zone have seen deaths of at least 135 people on account of riverbed mining related accidents and violence during April 2022 and February 2023, the most in any zone in this period. The maximum deaths 52 and injuries to 78 people have taken place in 32 road accidents by sand carrying vehicles followed by 48 deaths of sand workers in 10 incidents of mishaps at mining sites in this period.
The region has seen 10 incidents of drowning in deep sand mine pits leading to death of 24 people mostly young children and 5 incidents of infighting and gang wars among rival groups leading to death of 9 illegal sand miners in the past 11 months.
Bihar has emerged as most violence prone state in the region witnessing at least 92 deaths including 39 deaths of sand workers due to sand boat capsize and mishaps at mining sites; 22 deaths and 21 injuries in 16 road accidents by sand transporting vehicles; 24 drowning deaths in deep sand mine pits and 6 deaths of illegal miners in gang wars over sand mining affairs in the reporting period.
The death toll from Bihar includes about 20 sand workers who went missing in 2 sand boat capsize incidents in August and October 2022 and we did not find follow up reports on final or actual status of these workers.
We could track about 33 incidents of violent attacks by sand mafia causing injuries over 77 government officials including senior police and administration officials and staff of mining, forest and revenue departments during raids or action against illegal sand mining activities in the region during this period.
There have been several incidents of attacks where government officials had narrow escape from being mowed down or being shot dead by illegal sand miners. In many such incidents the actual number of affected officials have not been revealed in media reports.
In addition to the East Indian states, there have been deaths of at least 5 persons in North Eastern states of Assam (4) and Manipur (1) particularly due to fatal road accidents involving sand transporting vehicles. More information and the detailed tabular report on riverbed mining related deaths and violence can be seen in the summary report for East Zone.
Riverbed Deaths & Violence in East India between April 2022 & February 2023
|State||No. of drowning incidents/ injury/ deaths in sand mine pits||No. mishaps at mine sites/ injury/ deaths||No. of road accidents/ injury/ deaths due to sand transporting vehicles||No. of attacks/ injuries/ deaths of citizens/ activists/ reporters by illegal sand miners||No. of attacks/ injury/ deaths of govt. officials due to sand mafia||No. of incidents injury/ death of illegal sand miners in infighting & police encounter||Total death|
NA* Not Available
West Zone Summary
On the basis of analysis of media reports, there have been death of at least 23 people in sand mining related accidents and violence in West Indian states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa between April 2022 and February 2023.
Maximum casualty (15) apart from injuries to 6 persons has occurred in 13 road accidents involving sand transporting vehicles followed by 4 deaths & 1 injury due to 3 mishaps at mining sites. Of all deaths; 12 due to road accident by sand carrying vehicles have taken place in Maharashtra and MP followed by 2 in Rajasthan and 1 in Gujarat in this period.
The region has also witnessed incidents of fatal attacks by illegal miners on common citizens, RTI activists for opposing illegal sand mining activities resulting in death of 3 persons and injuries to 5 others in the past 11 months.
Among the most gruesome murders by illegal sand miners includes killing of Ramesh Balia, RTI activist from Meghpar village in Kutch district of Gujarat on 3 Oct 2022 and brutal murder of Madhav Shinde in Palam tehsil of Parbhani district on 24 March 2022. Another RTI activist Amod Mundhe has faced attack by illegal sand miners on 8 July 2022 in Pen tehsil, Maharashtra for pursing an illegal sand mining case.
In Jaipur, Rajasthan, a 35 year old person Suresh Choudhary was run over by a tractor and his brother was injured for objecting to sand transportation through his locality on 11 April 2022 while in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh the illegal miners tried to bury a Basad village farmer alive in a pit for opposing passage sand through his fields in Burhanpur on 14 December 2022. The incident of shooting in the night of 31 August 2022 in South Goa led to death of a migrant sand worker and critically injuring another worker.
There have been at least 12 incidents of life threatening attacks by illegal miners causing injuries to about 22 government officials from forest, police and mining department in the reporting period. The maximum attacks (4) took place in Madhya Pradesh, injuring about 10 officials followed by 3 attacks and 5 injuries in Rajasthan.
The incidents of illegal sand miners thrashing a constable in Dholpur, in July 2022; causing hand fracture to a forest guard in Ashok Nagar district, in April 2022; severely injuring a forest guard in Satna in October 2022; assaulting a SDO in police presence in Bhandara in April 2022 show how violent and fearless they have become.
More information and the detailed tabular report on riverbed mining related deaths and violence can be seen in the summary report for West Zone.
Riverbed Mining Deaths & Violence in West India between April 2022 & Feb 2023
|States||No. of drowning incidents/ injury/ deaths in sand mine pits||No. mishaps at mine sites/ injury/ deaths||No. of road accidents/ injury/ deaths due to sand transporting vehicles||No. of attacks/ injuries/ deaths of citizens/ activists/ reporters by illegal sand miners||No. of attacks/ injury/ deaths of govt. officials due to sand mafia||Total death|
NA* Not Available
South Zone Summary
In five South Indian states including Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, there has been death of at least 24 persons in sand mining related accidents and violence 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.
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 the past 11 months.
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.
More information and the detailed tabular report on riverbed mining related deaths and violence can be seen in the summary report for South Zone.
Sand Mining Deaths & Violence in South India between April 2022 & Feb 2023
|States||No. of drowning incidents/ injury/ deaths in sand mine pits||No. mishaps at mine sites/ injury/ deaths||No. of road accidents/ injury/ deaths due to sand transporting vehicles||No. of attacks/ injuries/ deaths of citizens/ activists/ reporters by illegal sand miners||No. of attacks/ injury/ deaths of govt. officials due to sand mafia||No. of incidents injury/ death of illegal sand miners in infighting & police encounter||Total death|
NA* Not Available
All India Summary
From the available reports, we could track at least 261 people have lost their lives and about 351 persons have faced injuries, threats due to riverbed mining related violence and accidents in India between April 2022 and February 2023. Maximum 135 human casualties have taken place in East Zone followed by 74 deaths in North; 23 deaths in West and 24 deaths in South Zone & 5 in North East in this period.
Just two regions of North and East have cumulatively seen deaths of 209 persons and injuries or attacks on 298 persons in the reporting period while West and South zones accounting for 47 human deaths and injuries or attacks on 53 persons in this period.
Avoidable Road Accidents as Biggest Killer
Maximum human deaths of 135 and injuries to 184 people, which is more than fifty per cent of overall death toll have occurred in 89 road accidents involving riverbed minerals transporting vehicles. Again 100 of these deaths and injuries to 167 persons have been caused by 60 road accidents in North and East zones alone.
In most of these accidents the involved vehicles including trucks, dumpers, tractors, lorries have been found either over-loaded or over-speeding or wrongly parked. The poor fitness of vehicles, over-worked drivers, poor road design and maintenance are other reasons for causing untimely deaths of scores of common villagers, working class citizens, school going students and sand truck drivers, cleaners. In many accidents the entire families are crushed to death by roughly driven sand trucks.
In multiple cases, the fatal accidents in Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal and Assam triggered violent events where agitated mobs resorted to burning down of vehicles, stone pelting on police team and government vehicles thus causing damages to public properties and jeopardizing the law and order situation. The ensuing lathi charge further increased the human injuries on both sides, disrupted the normal lives of common people and put financial burden on people. As states lack any plan to effectively check illegal sand mining and transportation affairs, reoccurrence of such violent episodes is inevitable.
The media persons cover these avoidable road accidents as routine affairs with inadequate details of source, delivery point of materials and owners of the vehicles apart from lack of follow ups on grievously injured persons. There have been several such road accidents by unidentified vehicles or where consignment remained undisclosed. A thorough investigation into these accidents can unearth the nexus between administration, illegal miners and politically influential persons.
Plight of Sand Workers
After road accidents involving sand carrying vehicles, the mishaps at mining sites has emerged as second major reason behind tragic death of sand workers. There have been at least 16 sand mine collapse and sand boat capsize incidents in the country resulting in death of about 54 sand workers in the country in past 11 months of which 50 deaths have taken place in North (02) and East (48) zones alone.
Most of the deceased belonged to the poor families who lacking better options take up illegal mining work as full or part time labours without realizing the risks and without adequate safety measures. While illegal sand mining is full of corruption and among most profitable business where sand mafias, suppliers and dealers make huge money, the sand workers who work in harsh and risky conditions are inadequately paid. Moreover, the tragic deaths of these sand workers is compensated for neither by profiteers or state mechanism.
All India death, injuries in sand mining violence & accidents during April 2022-Feb 2023
|Zone||No. of drowning incidents/ injury/ deaths in sand mine pits||No. of mishaps at mine sites/ injury/ deaths||No. of road accidents/ injury/ deaths due to sand transporting vehicles||No. of attacks/ injuries/ deaths of citizens/ activists/ reporters by illegal sand miners||No. of attacks/ injury/ deaths of govt. officials due to sand mafia||No. of incidents injury/ death of illegal sand miners in infighting & police encounter||Total death|
*NA: Not Available.
Drowning of Young Children in Sand Mine Pits
Like previous years, the deep pits created in and along riverbeds by excessive mining activities continue to cause deaths of innocent people. The country has witnessed at least 50 deaths mostly of young children in 25 incidents of drowning in deep sand mine pits in past 11 months of which 42 have happened in North (17) and East (25) zones.
Of total 50 drowning deaths, 29 have occurred in just 5 rivers including Yamuna (8) in Haryana and UP stretches; Sone river (8) in Bihar; Ganga river (5) in UP and Bihar stretches, 4 each in Chandan and Budhiya rivers in Bihar while 7 young girls were killed in a single such incident in Gedilam river in Tamil Nadu during the reporting period.
Unaware of deep pits caused by illegal sand mining amid shallow water level, the innocent kids enter the rivers during idol immersion events or for occasional bathing but suddenly slip down into such pits and get drowned. In most cases, the local people had raised concerns over grave threats of such pits by mechanized and illegal mining however the administration stayed indifferent. Even in legally approved mining sites, regulators have failed to ensure adherence of depth norms resulting in drowning deaths of innocent children.
Sand Mafias Fearlessly Attacking Citizens, Govt Officials
In the past 11 months between April 2022 and February 2023, we could compile 96 incidents of attacks and threats to common citizens (26) and government officials (70) by illegal sand miners killing 13 citizens and injuring 18 others. At the same time, 117 government officials from forest, police, revenue, mining departments and state administration have either suffered injuries or managed to escape life threatening attacks by sand mafias in the reporting period.
Of the total 26 attack and threat incidents on common people, 12 have taken place in North Zone followed by 7 in West and 6 in South zone. Of total 13 deaths of common citizens in attacks by illegal miners 10 deaths have occurred in North Zone (7) and West Zone (3).
The list of murdered citizens included 2 farmers in Punjab, an RTI activist in Gujarat’s Kutch, a local reporter in Bihar’s Begusarai, a resident of Jaipur, Rajasthan and a villager in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh who lost their lives for objecting to and exposing illegal sand mining in their respective areas.
Of total 70 incidents of attacks on government officials by sand mafias, 33 attacks impacting 77 government officials have happened in East Zone followed by 22 attacks impacting 15 government officials in North zone and 12 incidents of attacks impacting 22 government officials in West zone of the country in the reporting period.
The list of attacked government officials included 6 women officials (2 from Telangana and 1 each from Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh states) who managed to survive lethal attacks by illegal miners while conducting their duties.
The Bihar state has alone accounted for 25 percent of such attacks and 29 percent of injuries to government officials during raids on illegal mining activities followed by Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Punjab where government officials have been attacked frequently in the past 11 months.
Attempts to mow down government officials when caught, pelting of stones, beating government officials with sticks and even opening fire have become common practice used by illegal miners to avoid arrest or confiscation of involved vehicles in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. In many instances, the villagers have reportedly joined the illegal miners in launching mob attack on government officials and helping them run away with seized vehicles.
The increasing number of attacks and threats to common citizens and government officials only show that the illegal miners are turning more violent and fearless. The infighting between rival sand groups has also resulted in death of 9 illegal sand miners in past 11 months of which 6 deaths have occurred in Bihar alone. Of late, the state has become infamous for sand gang wars along Ganga and Sone rivers in Patna and Rohtas districts where violent clashes between rival groups have become a regular affair.
Bhim Singh Rawat (email@example.com)
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.