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Odishatv Bureau

Illegal smuggling of minor minerals has become rampant in some parts of Balasore and Keonjhar. An OTV ground report from the two districts unearthed some shocking details. Unequivocally, people have squarely blamed the administration for allowing the mafia a free run in plundering natural resources. 

Raibania in Balasore district is a glaring example of how the sand mafia is brazenly looting the natural resources from under the very nose of the administration. Locals in the area allege that the smugglers are indiscriminately extracting sand and transporting it to West Bengal without paying any royalty to the State. This apart, the unbridled smuggling of sand is leading to destruction of the eco-system in the region. 

Residents of the village say that even though they have raised the issue many times, the local administration has turned a blind eye towards their grievances. “Government and smugglers have a clear nexus and that is the reason the smuggling syndicate is growing day by day,” a local resident alleged.

Meanwhile, the Tehsildar at Jaleswar, Shankar Patnaik sought to dismiss has allegations of government's inaction against sand smuggling in the region. 

“We have rounded up some smugglers during our surprise raids but many often manage to escape as they have each and every detail of our movement,” Patnaik added.

The situation is more precarious in Khaira block of the district where smugglers are brazenly operating their syndicates. They carry out blasts in the mines at Sarisua in broad day-light and transport the stones using big tippers. “The local administration's silence is causing the loot of the stones since it is encouraging the smugglers to operate at ease,” said locals.

Approached for a response in connection with the allegations, Khaira Tehsildar Mahendra Kumar Behera claimed, “All mines in the region have been shut following the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) directives.”

He said that no smuggling of any minor minerals has been reported recently and, apart from that, he has no idea about what happened in the area before he assumed office.

It may be noted that illegal sand lifting in various parts of Balasore has become rampant for the last few years. Administrative officials have also become soft target for smugglers on several occasions. In many cases, the media has also been targeted by anti-social elements but no action against the culprits has been taken by the police authorities.

Similarly, Baitarani River in Keonjhar has become a haven for the sand mafia who are relentlessly digging valuable minerals from the river bed below the limit set by the government agencies.

“Government is not catching the big fish. Instead, it is arresting small business operators or locals who are taking sand for construction of their own houses It should frame strict laws to regulate mining and deliver strict punishment to the violators, environmentalist Bulu Patnaik said.

(By Somatirtha Purohit)

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