The ugly head of the sand mafia has risen again in Haryana with the detection of illegal 50-feet-deep digging along the Yamuna embankment at Tajewala village in Yamunanagar. It threatens to wreak havoc in the coming monsoon as the damaged embankment may impact the Hathnikund barrage and lead to floods in the surrounding area. As truckloads of the mineral dredged by heavy machinery criss-cross the state with impunity, it is an open secret that the unlawful activity is rampant. Alarmed by the ravaging plunder, the NGT had put a blanket ban on sand mining on the banks of the Yamuna in 2015, pending an investigation. In 2012, the Supreme Court had in a bid to curb illegal mining that is prevalent across the country, notably banned all sand mining without the approval of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
But the upper hand of the strong sand mafia-politician-landowner nexus prevailed as the state governments failed to rein in unsanctioned quarrying of sand, fed by the booming construction business. A glaring example of the influence of the mining mafia and realtors was seen in February this year when the Haryana Government, despite protests by the Opposition, amended the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900, ostensibly to pave the way for ‘development’ activities in the ecologically sensitive Aravalli areas. This collusion was to primarily favour the upscale Kant Enclave locality in Faridabad. Thankfully, the apex court intervened and delivered a deadly blow to the unholy intentions. It ordered the demolition of the buildings in the enclave. On Monday, it even rejected pleas of residents to shift the eviction deadline.
Only such strong action as a ban on illicit dredging activity can restrict quarrying in the Yamuna basin, hundreds of acres of which have been plundered and its rich ecosystem irreversibly impacted. Tardy probes and low conviction rates ensure that the money-minting indiscriminate extraction of sand continues. The data of Mohali — just one held guilty in 165 cases of unauthorised sand mining in four years — is reflective of the countrywide situation. GPS-enabled monitoring could help curb the criminal menace that leaves our children with an unlivable habitat.