Udupi: The deputy commissioner’s silence on illegal sand mining is ruining the lives of the people, said Birthi Rajesh Shetty. He was speaking at a protest organized by the members of Varamballi Gram Panchayat against the sand mafia operating in their limits.
The district administration has floated 26 rules for sand mining in the district. The sand miners have violated all 26 rules but still the district administration is silent. The fishermen are suffering financial losses due to sand mining. The deputy commissioner had clearly ordered sand miners to shut down their operations between June 1 to September 30 but the sand miners have resumed their operations from August 1 itself. Every law that has been formulated to monitor sand mining has been violated.
Gram panchayats are the local bodies who strive for the development of villages but while granting permission to sand mining, gram panchayats are not consulted. The permission is granted on the basis of a No Objection Certificate issued by the Sand Miners Union. The local body is kept under darkness and a union is allowed to issue the NOC.
Roads are being affected by sand mining as the heavy vehicles that carry sand damage the road leaving huge potholes. The gram panchayat has to initiate repair works but it is not even consulted when areas are identified for sand mining. GP members are being threatened by the sand miners if they are questioned. The Mines and Geology Department is dozing and the officials have closed their eyes on illegal sand mining.
Sand miners have to use traditional boats for sand mining which collects 1.5 units of sand but instead they use big boats which collect 5 units of sand. The miners then sell these units to other districts and states. Construction works in Udupi district have been stalled due to the unavailability of sand. The miners have created artificial scarcity as sand is sold to other district and states at higher costs. The lives of the locals are being ruined as they have to pay the same amount fixed to the people of other districts and states.
Sand miners should operate from 6 am to 6 pm but this rule has also been violated. They start their work very early in the morning and continue to lift sand till late night. Steroids are being injected into the bodies of workers coming from UP and Assam to improve their working standards, he said.
Former MP Jayaprakash Hegde has consulted PWD Minister and Rural Development Minister and they have promised to initiate stringent action on illegal sand mining. Vinay Kumar Sorake, Minister for Urban Development and Minister in-charge of district along with MLA Udupi Pramod Madhwaraj, MLC Pratapchandra Shetty and MLC Kota Srinivas Poojary, has extended his support.
The locals should be given first priority while sand is being sold. The miners utilize our resources and then abandon us. If the district administration still continues to remain silent, a district-wide agitation will be launched against illegal sand mining. Gram panchayats should be given the authority to issue NOC to the sand miners, he added.
Former ZP president Bhujanga Shetty speaking to Mangalorean.com said that due to lack of proper monitoring, illegal sand mining has reached its peak. The protest aims at creating awareness among the people, he added.
Mallika, a resident of Kukkude Haradi, says that criminal cases have been booked against those who oppose sand mining. The islands have been damaged, many coconut tress collapse; the sand miners lift sand near river banks which loosens the shore and causing flood problems during rainy season.
Peter, a farmer of Bennekudru, says that sand miners are even lifting sand near bridges, which is restricted under the rules framed by the government. Fishing nets and water pipelines are damaged, he added.
Prakash, a fisherman of Bennekudru, says that commotion is often witnessed among the fishermen and sand miners. Fishing nets are damaged which has ruined our lives, he added.
Mahadeshwara of the Mines and Geology Department, who later visited the sand mining area, witnessed public ire. He assured to take action against the sand miners.
The Varamballi Gram Panchayat members later submitted a memorandum to the deputy Tahasildar Vasanth Kumar.
ZP members Mallika Balakrishna Shetty, Gopi K. Nayak; Vittal Poojary, Nithyanand Shetty, S. Nirajan, Narayan Sriyan and others were present.