Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde has asked the State Government to enact a law against illegal sand extraction to stem damage to the ecology and prevent financial loss to the exchequer.
Mr. Hegde, in a letter to the Government, said “powerful people” were involved in and benefited from illegal sand extraction. This is the second letter on the issue by the Lokayukta. In a similar letter in October 2007, he had asked that necessary legislation be passed to stop illegal sand extraction. But the Government “I must say, has taken no action”, Mr. Hegde said.
In the letter addressed to Chief Secretary S.V. Ranganath dated February 2, Mr. Hegde said illegal sand extraction was going on in all the rivers, including the Tungabhadra and the Cauvery.
“Information available with my institution shows that powerful people are involved in illegal sand extraction, who are also the beneficiaries.” The State Government was losing Rs. 90 lakh a day on royalty, he wrote.
The State Government had fixed Rs. 30 as royalty for each MT (million tonne) of sand. Each single rear axle lorry with 16 MT sand on an average fetched a royalty of Rs. 480. “But strangely, the State has issued an executive order fixing Rs. 250 a lorry load instead of Rs. 30 per MT of sand,” Mr. Hegde said.
Pointing to the gravity of the situation, Mr. Hegde said the institution (Lokayukta) had found proof of large-scale illegal sand extraction on the land as well as from the riverbed. Powerful pumps mounted on boats were used for sand extraction from the riverbed.
“This illegal activity and people involved in it have formed themselves into a mafia, threatening anybody who opposes it,” Mr. Hegde said. Illegal activities were continuing as the district machinery was not serious about preventing them, he added.
Mr. Hegde said earthmovers were being used by lease holders to extract sand from the land leased to them in one or two years and then move on to other areas with the same lease, he said.