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Illicit sand mining rampant in Salem

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UNLAWFUL ACT: A tractor with quarried stones seized near Salem recently.
UNLAWFUL ACT: A tractor with quarried stones seized near Salem recently.

Special Correspondent

Collector forms special squad to bring illegal miners to book

SALEM: Inept officials and their patronising of a few miners have encouraged illicit mining which has become rampant in the district thus robbing it of its rich mineral resources and ravaging the environment.

Tip of the iceberg

Licensed mining activities, big and tiny, have already placed the district's natural resources under severe stress.

The recent seizures of granite and white stones and pellets in tractors and lorries are just a tip of the iceberg. "Illicit mining in areas like Sankagiri, Edapadi, Yercaud, Attur and Salem in the district are going on unabated," said an environmentalist.

In fact, illicit quarrying has even threatened the existence of a few hills in and around the Salem city.

Public outcry

Despite public outcry and media exposes, the Salem district administration is satisfied with occasional raids and seizures of transport vehicles. "A few officials are hand in glove with the quarry mafia," points out the environmentalist who claims that these officials rarely have the will to initiate proper legal proceedings against the guilty.

Absconding

After a raid officials often claim that real culprits behind the despicable act had absconded. They would say that what they could do was to seize a few vehicles and detain the poor labourers.

"This is the usual refrain. When you allow these miners to abscond, they return and resume their illicit activities after the public outcry dies down," says a consumer activist. "Rarely does a case come up before any court dealing with illicit mining activities," he adds.

Muscle power

As huge money and political muscle power are involved in the district's illicit mining, enforcement officials prefer to turn a blind eye to the vexatious issue.

A senior official confided that a road contractor who was awarded a near Rs. 1-crore road project in the tribal habitations in Yercaud had non-chalantly ravaged a nearby hillock in the `porombok' land for stones for laying the road.

"He is not supposed to damage the hills and hillocks on the Yercaud mountain, which has a fragile ecology," the official adds.

Alarmed over the illicit activities, District Collector has formed a special squad, which includes the Salem Revenue Divisional Officer, Assistant Director (Mines) and Salem tahsildhar to bring the illicit miners to book .

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