Indian Journalists, Forest Rangers Battle Sand Mafia

You heard me. “Sand Mafia.”

Forest rangers in Chandigarh, India were physically attacked this week by sand-mining mobsters for the third time in a year, “expos[ing] the rampant illegal quarrying from the restricted areas in the Chandigarh periphery.”

Chandigarh is a a planned community in the extreme north of India that manages to be the capital of not one but two Indian states (Punjab and Haryana). Says Indian Express:

A team of Forest officials, led by Forest Range Officer Blawinder Singh, intercepted a tractor-trolley laden with sand illegal lifted from the forest area near Chhoti Karoran village, close to Chandigarh, but the driver and his accomplices not only manhandled and attacked the Forest officials but also managed to flee away with the illegal sand in the cover of darkness, the police said here today.

Singh, along with Block Forest Officer Gurcharan Singh and Forest Guard, was on a night vigil in the area around 8 pm to check the illegal mining of sand, which was reportedly on the rise for the past sometime.

“Initially, we caught hold of the tractor-trolley driver, who identified himself as Machha of Nadda village but soon his four-five accomplices converged on the spot and manage to flee with the illicit sand after manhandling and abusing us,” Singh reported to the police.

A case of assault and obstructing public servant in discharge of official duty under relevant Sections of the IPC and offences punishable under various Sections of the Land Conservation Act has been registered in this connection. However, no arrest was confirmed as yet.

You laugh, Yankee dogs, but the sand mafia is a recurrent and growing problem in northern India. As a planned community, Chandigarh requires sand for construction projects, but the mining of sand is controlled by politically-connected mobsters who flout environmental legislation. Earlier this year, the Times of India reported that its own team of journalists was attacked by gangsters while reporting on the theft of sand from an important environmental site:

The 41-km-long Bankot Creek that passes through Raigad and Ratnagiri is Maharashtra’s own Sunderbans. The creek has a rich habitat for crocodiles, migratory birds, rich marine life and virgin mangroves which are about 15 feet high. The creek, however, is being choked by sand miners who operate as many as 14 sand-dredgers in a span of a kilometre violating all [regulatory] norms.

A SUV carrying five people surrounded the car in which the TOI [Times of India] team and Abdulali was returning from the spot. One youngster said he owned the creek and no one had the right to take pictures of the creek.

When he and his friends were asked to go away, they trailed the car in which the TOI team was and tried ramming into the vehicle. A few kilometres down, another LCV tried to ram into the car, causing a dent in its body and forcing it to stop.

The vehicle was immediately hemmed in by three other vehicles and around 15 to 20 people who started smashing the vehicle’s windscreens. They smashed the rear window, the side mirror and side window. They then tried to snatch the camera from the TOI photographer but failed. The mob also threatened to kill local activist Jalal who was in the vehicle and asked Abdulali not to visit the area again.

Traffic cops reached the spot soon, after being alerted by the TOI office, but the attackers continued to threaten and abuse the team of journalists and environmentalists; they had spent Rs 28 crore “buying the creek” and nobody could stop sand-dredging there, the mob said.

Um…yeah. That “Sundarbans” thing? That’s “the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world,” which stretches through parts of India’s West Bengal and into Bangladesh. The author means Bankot Creek is a natural wonder; apparently that’s like saying “Mount Vaca is Solano County’s Everest,” only markedly less ridiculous.

Khaleej Times in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, reported last month on the ruining of Indian natural sites by sand mining, claiming that numerous Indian Ocean beaches visible on an ocean trip from Mumbail to Dubai were completely devoid of hotels, tourists, and sand. And this is not a new story; Hinduonnet reported recently on the long history of India of construction mafias (including sand mafias) murdering Indian citizen activists in revenge for opposing monolithic cartel control of construction-related mining. They’re talking about it in the Indian Legislative Assembly, and last year the Times of India bemoaned the destruction of the Bharatapuzha river in Kerala (at the very southern tip of the west coast of India — lengthwise across the country from Chandigarh).

At a time when rivers world over are at the receiving end of man’s abuse, Bharatapuzha in Kerala is no exception….She is believed to have an aura of holiness about her, so Keralites regard her as the Ganga [the River Ganges] of Kerala, though she is a midget in contrast to the great northern stream. I found myself accompanying her one morning, a victim of sand mining, at Thirunavaya in South Malabar. The previous night’s rains had left her slightly swollen. I saw them then, the [miners], members of the sand mafia who lined their pockets by robbing the river. A dozen men, youngsters all, dipped themselves repeatedly into the river and every time they surfaced, with dolphin-like swiftness, they did so with fistfuls of sand. The newspapers of Kerala often cry foul over sand mining without avail. The mafia is presumably in cahoots with the powers that be.
Speak…um…Hindi, I guess? Punjabi, maybe? Bengali, possibly? Kannada, Tulu, Kodava Takk? Speak any of the more than 1,600 languages of India? You’re miles ahead of me. If you speak whatever language this video is in (I’m guessing Hindi, but it’s a pretty wild guess), then perhaps you’ll nod with understanding at the below video; if not, then like me you’ll find your curiosity about the Indian Sand Mafia only piqued by this story. I am especially troubled by its haunting News 9 score that sounds like it came out of the studio outtakes of the Bollywood Death Orchestra.

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