Deputy Superintendent of Police (Dy SP) of Haryana Police Surendra Singh was mowed down by a dumper as he was trying to stop illegal mining. His death has shocked the administrative system but neither illegal mining nor the instance of an officer being killed by the mining mafia is new in Haryana.
Surendra Singh was a member of the task force, consisting of officials from the police and forest department, that the Haryana government had formed to stop and act against illegal mining.
The task force acts against illegal mining in the Aravalli area and they need to patrol twice a week at least in the villages bordering the mountain range, says Tauru SDM Surendra Pal.
National Green Tribunal (NGT) had imposed a complete ban on any mining in the state of Haryana from 1 July to 15 September but the mining mafia continued to dig. Most of the digging work is done at night while the supply of the mineral is facilitated during the day.
How Big Is the Game of Illegal Mining in Haryana?
One can only guess but the vehicles confiscated and fine collected for illegal mining gives a glimpse of the extent of the malice.
The data shows that 2,020 vehicles were seized in financial year (FY) 2019-20, a fine of Rs 21.65 crore was collected, and 211 FIRs were registered. In FY 2020-21, most of which was under the COVID-19 lockdown, 3,515 vehicles were seized and Rs 82.77 crore fines were imposed. In FY 2021-22, 2,192 vehicles have been seized and Rs 29 crore fines have been imposed on illegal miners along with 977 FIRs filed against the mining mafia.
In Nuh district alone, 68 vehicles were seized, 23 FIRs were registered, and Rs 4 lakh fine was imposed.
How is Illegal Mining Carried Out in the State?
Sand is mined illegally from Ghaggar and Tangri rivers in Panchkula, and from Yamuna riverbed in Yamunanagar, Karnal, Panipat, and Sonipat.
Besides this, the hills of Aravalli mountain range in Gurugram, Faridabad, Palwal, Nuh, and hills in the Bhiwani-Mahendragarh area are mined for stone used in road construction, and stone dust is used with sand and cement in house construction. Wherever there is a riverbed, sand is mined illegally in many other districts in Haryana.
Illegal mining in Haryana continued unabated when even legal mining was banned. From 1 July, the NGT had again imposed the ban but there is no stopping the illegal mining.
Attacks on Officials
The mining mafia attacking officials trying to stop illegal mining is not new in Haryana. Though, the administration has never been able to nab any big player in their action.
In January 2014, when police in Yamunanagar seized a few of the vehicles belonging to the mining mafia, they were surrounded, threatened, and vehicles were freed forcibly.
In July 2018, a police team trying to stop illegal sand mining in Yamuna river in Palwal was attacked by the mining mafia. They tried to mow down the officials and fled after damaging government vehicles.
Attacks by Mining Mafia in Yamunanagar
2010: Bilaspur SDM Ashwini Mangi was attacked by the mafia in the mining zone
30 April 2011: Mining Finance Commissioner Yudhveer Singh and others were attacked in Mandewala
27 August 2011: SHO Pratapnagar was attacked in Bambepur village while chasing the mining mafia
4 June 2012: Seven farmers were attacked when they complained about illegal mining in Kalanaur village under Yamunanagar Sadar police station
7 February 2013: Ramesh Saini, in charge of Kalesar Ranger of Forest department, and two other employees were attacked
3 August 2013: Kalanaur Chowky In Charge Ashok Kumar and constable Balwan Singh attacked
17 February 2015: Mafia tried to mow down SDM Premchand, and CTM Naveen Ahuja with a truck
February 2015: Mafia tried to mow down DDPO Gagandeep Singh with a truck
12 July 2018: 20-year-old Shahrukh Khan was mowed down by a tractor at Bibipur Ghat
21 August 2018: SDO of the irrigation department attacked
20 September 2018: Police team trying to stop illegal mining in Belgarh attacked
13 November 2018: A case was registered in Behat police station after the police team and mining mafia exchanged fire
31 January 2019: Tajewala mining team was attacked
19 July 2022: Nuh Dy SP mowed down by mining mafia
Why Haryana Government Is in Favour of Mining
The green activists working in Haryana oppose mining. There is a registered trust, Save Aravali, which focuses on this task. Supreme Court had banned mining in Haryana in 2002, which continued for a long time.
In 2019, the Manohar Lal Khattar government in Haryana passed a bill in Assembly allowing the cutting of trees and other mining activities. Many activists called it a contempt of the Supreme Court and approach the apex court but a decision is pending.
Despite all high-decibel opposition to mining, the Haryana government still favours it. The reason is that it collected Rs 583 crore in FY 2019, Rs 702 crore in FY 2020, and Rs 770 crore in FY 2021 from mining activities.
The Area Where Dy SP Died Is Not a Mining Zone: Minister
Cabinet Minister Mool Chand Sharma said that the area where Dy SP Surendra Singh was killed, is not a mining zone. It was a forest area where illegal mining was being done. We would not allow illegal mining to flourish, he said.
A High-Stake Game
Supreme Court had constituted an empowered committee to stop illegal mining in the Aravalli range. The committee submitted its report in 2018, which said that 25 percent of the Aravalli hill area in Rajasthan vanished after 1968 due to illegal mining.
Founder of the Save Aravali Trust Jitendra Bhadana has claimed on many occasions that more than 30 peaks of Aravalli in Rajasthan and Haryana have been engulfed by illegal mining.
What Is NGT Doing?
In June, the NGT constituted a committee that was tasked to submit its report in four weeks' time assessing the quantum of revenue loss the Haryana government has suffered due to the ban on mining.
The committee was also tasked to submit a verification report within three months. The hearing in the matter is due on 24 August. The committee will inform the NGT court how many complaints have been filed against illegal mining in the last five years and what action was taken by the authorities.
Mining Rules in Haryana
In Haryana, if you want to mine the soil for agriculture or any other purpose, you will have to apply on an online portal for permission. You would have to furnish details of the digging equipment and vehicles to be used for the purpose but you cannot mine sand more than 100 square metres.
There are also rules for mining of minerals, their storage, and transport. Anyone found illegally mining or transporting any mineral is fined 15 times the royalty and an equal amount is levied for the environmental damage caused by the act. The vehicles of illegal miners are auctioned in case the fine is not deposited.
What Are the Fines for Illegal Mining?
Dumper, six-wheel truck: Rs 1 lakh
Ten-wheel trawler: Rs 2 lakh
Vehicle above 10-wheeler: Rs 4-6 lakh
JCB machine: Rs 2 lakh
Poclaine excavator: Rs 4 lakh
Tractor trolley: Rs 25,000
(Translated from Quint Hindi by Arvind Singh.)