Special squad needs more men to stop illegal sand mining, says Rajesh B. Nair

Fatal accidents involving sand-laden trucks are on the rise even after the launch of a drive by the Revenue Department against illegal operators.

A few days ago, two persons travelling on a motorbike were crushed to death when a speeding sand lorry hit them. The victims, in their early 30’s, died on the spot. With this, the toll in accidents involving sand-laden trucks in the last 10 months rose to nine.

In another incident, a sand-laden truck rammed a wayside shop at Villianur selling shamianas, killing the owner and a customer on the spot, in the wee hours in October last.

Four members of a family were killed in April last when a sand-laden lorry hit the car in which they were travelling. The family was on the way to the General Hospital from Mannadipet. During the same month, an overloaded sand lorry lost control and hit a two-wheeler crushing the rider to death.

The trucks, mostly old vehicles without fitness certificates, ply at break-neck speed to avoid getting caught by officials in the Revenue Department and have become a threat to road-users, especially pedestrians during night and wee hours.

Many such trucks also carry a load beyond the permissible limit of three metric tonnes, which makes the driver lose control of the vehicle during an emergency.

Sources said that illegal quarrying of sand had become rampant in villages such as Thirukanchi, Ariyapalayam and Nonankuppam on the banks of the Sankaraparani in Sellipet area. Likewise, the mining of sand go unchecked in Soriankuppam and Kunnichampet on the banks of the Pennaiyar in Bahour region.

Revenue officials said that illegal mining of three metric tonne of sand would fetch a lorry owner around Rs. 3,000. They usually make a total of three trips every day. The huge profit had lured anti-socials to the business.

More than 50 truck-loads had been seized in the last four months, the officials said. Lack of manpower and vehicles hampered the combing operations, besides the clandestine activities of the “sand mafia” had come as cropper to their activity, the officials added.

The illegal operators hired people to wait near the complex of the Revenue Department and tahsildar’s offices to inform the lorry operators about any possible drive, an official said. Last year a person was nabbed from the Revenue Department complex while he was trying to bribe the watchman for being an ‘informer.’ The watchman was offered Rs. 100 every day for passing information about any possible search operation, he said.

If the illegal operations have to be curbed, the special squad in the Revenue Department should be equipped with more men, equipment and vehicles, besides giving them more powers, the official said. Above all “there should be political will” to tackle the problem, he said. Some Revenue Department officials stressed the need for more support from the police and the local councillors .