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Illegal sand-mining at Tirunavaya

Abdul Latheef Naha
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Police guard withdrawn, Nava Mukunda temple under threat

Illegal mining of sand from the Bharathapuzha at Tirunavaya has begun to pose a threat not only to the river and the people living on its banks but also to the famous Nava Mukunda temple, where thousands of people from across the State offer “bali” every year.

The illegal mining resumed about a fortnight ago. The police and the revenue authorities had in May brought to a halt a massive mining operation just about 150 metres east of the temple.

The police had posted a guard on the site and constant vigil had been maintained. But with the civic elections, the police guard was withdrawn and soon the illegal miners resurfaced.

Incessant mining has created a deep pool in the river, diverting its flow. Temple authorities say devotees performing Bali have to be more careful now because of the directional change.

Continual sand-mining over the past few years has led to heavy soil erosion and destruction of the banks, apart from the damage done to the Bharathapuzha. People living in the Palliyal Parambil Harijan colony on the riverbank fear that they will lose their land. They say their pleas to the revenue authorities have gone unheard.

The village officer of Tirunavaya, who recently visited the colony, reportedly told them that they need not bother about the riverbank destruction because it was “puramboke” land, which did not belong to them.

“We complained to the police more than half-a-dozen times. We called the police Crime Stopper facility many times. We called even the Deputy Superintendent of Police. But the police said they did not have enough personnel to spare,” said P.N. Krishnakumar, a resident.

M.K. Shaji, sub-inspector of Tirur police station, said that frequent political clashes along the sensitive coast of Malappuram district had forced the police to pull the guard out of Tirunavaya.

“We have had nearly 50 cases of political clashes in the region during the post-election days. We had to channel all our personnel and resources to control the situation along the coast,” Mr. Shaji said.

Illegal mining has many negative effects, the people said. They feared that the mining would lead to the emergence of a mafia, which would eventually threaten those opposing its operations.

The sand mined is carried to the bank on country boats, filled in cement bags and carried to the yard of a couple of landowners, who make a quick buck by allowing to use their property for the illegal activity.

Lorries transport the sand between night and dawn to evade revenue and police surveillance.

The mafia network is so wide that people with mobile phones stand guard at junctions, conveying the movement of the police and the revenue officials to the miners, providing them time to escape.

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