Odishatv Bureau

Berhampur: Nine persons have been arrested for alleged involvement in illegal extraction and transportation of sand from the Rushikulya river bed in Ganjam district as police stepped up crackdown on the racket, a police officer said on Thursday.

Nine tractors loaded with sand were seized after a police team raided the site at Jeypur under the jurisdiction of Aska police station on Wednesday, the police officer said.

Four persons, however, escaped from the spot and efforts are on to nab them.

"We have identified the four persons who escaped from the spot," the Inspector in-Charge (IIC) of Aska police station, PK Sahoo, said.

The arrested persons are drivers of vehicles engaged in illegal transportation of sand extracted from the river bed, Sahoo said.

Though the offenders claimed that they authorised to extract sand from the river bed, no lease had been granted to anyone for lifting the sand in the area, the IIC said.

During the raids, the vehicle owners were unable to show any document regarding transportation of sand, he said, adding, they have been illegally extracting sand from the river bed for last few years.

During interrogation, one of the arrested drivers admitted that they had been illegally lifting sand from the area for last few years, he said.

It is clearly an act of theft of the minor mineral (sand) causing loss to the state exchequer, Sahu said.

A case has been registered against the mafia under relevant sections of the IPC and Odisha Mineral Rule and search is on to arrest the main accused, the IIC said.

Earlier on Sunday, police had arrested seven persons, including Kailas Pradhan, former councillor of Aska Notified Area Council (NAC) for allegedly extracting and transporting sand from the Rushikulya river bed.