Special teams led by Revenue Secretary Gagandeep Singh Bedi on Monday began inspection of mining lease areas along the coastline.

Speaking to mediapersons before the inspection, Mr. Bedi said six teams would be deployed at six different locations across the Tuticorin district.

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had constituted special teams recently in the wake of violations in beach mining after former Tuticorin Collector Ashish Kumar launched a crackdown on illegal activities on August 6. The government had ordered suspension of sand mining since August 9 to ensure smooth conduct of inspection.

Mr. Bedi said the teams would submit its report to the Chief Minister after concluding final phase of inspection.

Inspections would be conducted for three days this week and for two days in the next week.

Further round of inspection would be carried out, if required. All stakeholders, including fishermen, would be enquired during the inspection, he said.

The officials inspected mining lease areas at Vaipar and Vembar in Vilathikulam taluk, Manapad and Madhavankurichi in Tiruchendur taluk and Padugapathu and Periyathalai in Sathankulam taluk.

Each team comprised a Senior Deputy Collector, an Assistant Director of Survey, an Assistant Director of Mines or Assistant Geologist from the Department of Geology and Mining and a Divisional Environmental Engineer of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. Some officials from other districts had also been drawn for the purpose, officials said.

Officers in the rank of Deputy Collector would head the teams during the inspection. Teams led by S. Santhakumar at Vembar, V. Mohanachandran at Vaipar, P. Rathinasamy at Manapad, A. Lawrence at Madhavankurichi, N. Sakthivel at Periyathaalai and Selvakumar at Padugapathu made on the spot assessments at the mined areas.

Earlier, Collector M. Ravikumar, Superintendent of Police M. Durai, District Revenue Officer Muthu and other high-ranking officers from departments of Revenue, Forests and Pollution Control Board attended a meeting with the teams.

Fishermen raise objections

A section of fishermen from Periyathaalai raised objections over a special team’s inspection at a mining lease area on Monday.

Agitated over the sudden arrival of the team, the fishermen had closed the gate of BMC – Beach Minerals Company at Padukkapathu village, through which the team led by Mr. Selvanathan had earlier approached a quarry to measure the mined area.

Sources said the fishermen felt they had not been apprised about the team’s inspection in advance. The fishermen and the local body representatives of Periyathaalai panchayat wanted to be present at the inspection site but initially they were not allowed to.

After holding talks with the agitators, the team decided to allow five fishermen at the site. Police force was deployed adequately at the scene to prevent any untoward incident.

Plea to extend probe

Special Correspondent from Chennai writes:

A voluntary organisation, ‘Citizens’ Welfare and Grievances Redressal Forum’, on Monday urged the government to widen the scope of the probe by including Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts.

Talking to reporters here on Monday, the managing trustee, V. Sundaram, said illegal beach sand mining operations had been going on in Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts for more than 20 years.

He had visited the coastal areas of these districts from Vembar to Manavalakurchi to ascertain the facts and found that minerals worth thousands of crores of rupees had been mined over the last two decades.

While the illegal mining in Tuticorin was to the extent of 15 per cent, it was 65 per cent in Tirunelveli and 20 per cent in Kanyakumari, he claimed and wanted these two districts to be covered in the probe.

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