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Pradeep Pattanayak

Throwing the restrictions under Section 144 imposed at Bagudi stone quarry in Balasore district’s Soro block to wind, the stone mafia has been extracting and smuggling hundreds of trucks of stone and red soil, causing crores of revenue loss to the government. 

Besides the revenue loss, the illegal operations at the said quarry are also posing a huge threat to the people residing in nearby areas and the flora and fauna of adjacent Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary. 

After the allegations of a few leaseholders on mining much more than permitted limits, restrictions under Section 144 were imposed at the Bagudi stone quarries as well as nearby quarries in 2020. The restrictions are still in force. Yet, the plundering is going on as it used to be before 2020. 

There are a total of 63 quarries in and around the Bagudi stone quarry area. Here the mining of stones is prohibited. But it is in papers only. The ground reality is that stone smugglers are still carrying out mining. Their modus operandi is to carry out the mining activities in the dark of night. 

The quarries that bear a deserted look during day hours come to life in the night. Hundreds of trips of stones and red soil are being smuggled from these quarries till dusk. 

With the mafia carrying out illegal blasting operations, the nearby villagers are living in constant fear. 

“We are in fear as our houses are developing cracks under the impact of these blasting. To whom we should go to register our complaints? When we go to the tehsildar, he says all sorts of the mining activities have been stopped for two months,” said Shaktikanta Bhoi, a local resident. 

The administration looking the other way suggests that there exists a well-oiled nexus between stone mafia and government officers, local residents alleged.  

In this regard, when contacted, Soro MLA Parshuram Dhada also demanded stringent action against the stone smugglers. 

“On the allegations of stone smuggling, fines were imposed on some mafia. Instead of depositing the fine amounts, they have gone to the High Court. Yet, mining activities are still going on. Who are these persons enjoying the political patronage? Is the administration aware of it? I demand a proper probe and stringent action against the involved ones,” said the legislator. 

Balasore district Collector Dattatraya Bhausaheb Shinde said enforcement has been made stricter than earlier to check illegal activities. 

“Our enforcement team is visiting the Bagudi quarry on a regular basis. Besides the seizure of tractors, fines are being collected regularly. I have already been given a direction to take stricter action against whom FIRs have been registered,” said the Collector.

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