Authorities say no sand mining contracts cancelled in the region as of yet

The Madhya Pradesh police arrested Kuber Singh, a sand mafia gang lord and former dacoit, on Saturday in connection with Friday's armed attack on government officials probing illegal mining in Panna.

Singh and his gang members had fired on a team of government officials — including a Sub-Divisional Magistrate, a Sub-Divisional police officer and some other policemen — when the team went to demolish a bridge that was being used for illegal sand transportation in the Ajaygarh block of Panna district.

However, authorities dismissed media reports about the cancellation of all sand mining contracts in the region as “misinformed.”

Warning

“It is absolutely untrue. We have not cancelled any contracts yet. However, we have issued a warning that in case we find anyone engaged in illegal mining, we would revoke their leases,” Chhattarpur Collector Rahul Jain told The Hindu.

“Kuber Singh has been arrested and is being interrogated,” said R.K. Mathur, Divisional Commissioner, Sagar range.

Asked whether Singh enjoyed any political backing, Mr. Mathur replied in the negative.

“He does not have any political support and there has not been any pressure from anybody regarding his arrest. In fact, we have been told to work without any pressure in cases of illegal mining,” he said.

“We have sent a proposal to the government to suspend individual licences/leases and bring them under the control of the State mining corporation. But there have not been any cancellations yet,” Mr. Mathur.

During a video-conference held on Saturday, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan told all Divisional Commissioners and Inspectors-General (IGs) of Police to “work fearlessly.”

“Once you have the required evidence, do not hesitate in taking action against the person, regardless of who he is or claims to be. You don't need permission from anybody to initiate action and there is absolutely no question of political interference,” Mr. Chouhan told officers during a five-hour interaction.

Meanwhile, the State government said the murder of IPS officer Narendra Kumar was part of a “conspiracy hatched by the Congress party.”

Madhurani Tewatia, wife of Narendra Kumar, has called the actions taken by the State government inadequate and demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe.

“It was a murder and not an accident. I have worked in that area and I know this is how things work there. The government should request a CBI probe,” she was quoted by the press as saying.

Following the national outrage over the murder, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government seems to be in damage-control mode.

The State police arrested in Morena on Sunday the former BJP district chief, Hamir Singh Patel, in connection with a month-old attack on two mining officers. “Patel was wanted for dacoity and has been arrested under section 395 of the IPC,” D.P. Gupta, DIG, Chambal range, told The Hindu.