Perturbed by the uncontrolled and illegal extraction of sand and stones from the bed of the Yamuna river in Yamunanagar, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has pulled up the Haryana Government and directed it to take action against the officials concerned for failing to prevent this loot or bring the guilty to book. It must prompt and shame the state government into making sure that the criminal activity is brought to a grinding halt. Those guilty of killing the river and degrading the ecology of the area must be convicted faster and deterrent penalty imposed on them. The plunder has been going on for too long with impunity. The appallingly low conviction rate has emboldened the miners to cock a snook at the law, even as it points a finger at the mining mafia working in cahoots with politicians and officials.
The mining cases in the past nine years throw up discouraging figures: while a whopping 487 criminal cases were registered for a breach of the Mines and Minerals Act, 1957, in Yamunangar district, conviction was recorded in a mere six. This pales in comparison to the distressingly high number of 271 acquittals of the accused. Giving a further impetus to the mafia to violate the law without liability is the fact that the big fish are hardly ever caught in the net.
The loopholes in the system that lead to exemption from paying for the consequences of illegal quarrying in 99 per cent of the times need to be plugged. Vital to combating the battle against the plunderers of the precious natural resource is stern action against the erring officials under whose watch the sand theft has been going unpunished. At the same time, equally essential is to provide security to the officials and prosecutors who are trying to curb the rot. For, the sinister goons are known to intimidate those coming in their way. In an exemplary first, the Gautam Buddh Nagar administration in UP had last August invoked the stringent National Security Act against mining mafia don Sanjay Momnathal for building a dam on the Yamuna.