Mrunal Manmay Dash

The Odisha government is reportedly losing revenue to the tune of crores of rupees as sand mafias on the Odisha-West Bengal border are allegedly smuggling huge amounts of sand from right under the nose of the Balasore district administration.

A look at the Manakunda village under Bhograi block and one will see big holes on a vast patch of land. It appears like several ponds have been dug up in the area, thanks to the rampant illegal sand smuggling. The village, which borders West Bengal, is now reportedly in the grip of Bengali brokers.

Locals alleged that hundreds of trips of sand are being sold to West Bengal every day with the help of a handful of people from Odisha.

As per the allegations, sand smuggling has been going on for a long time on government land in villages like Mankunda, Anglia, Nasrabad, and Hadki in Bhogarai block. Local residents alleged that they are being silenced by mafias with threats if they protest against the illegal activities.

A handful of local sand mafias and a Bengal mafia have been smuggling sand to West Bengal. While we have informed the RI and Tehsildar about this, they told us that they are aware of this and royalty is being received from them. But they continue to mine the area for sand which will create serious problems for us in the future,” said Pradeep Sethi, a resident of Manakunda.

People have complained that the administration is not taking any action despite repeated complaints in this regard.

"Some mafias have contacts with the local RI and Tehsildar. Whenever we complain to the Tehsildar about the illegal sand mining, our identities are disclosed and we get threats from the mafias," alleged another local.

When asked, Bhogarai Tehsildar Himanshu Sekhar Giri said that an inquiry would be conducted in this connection.

“People have complained to me regarding this issue. I have directed the concerned RI to submit a detailed report on how much sand has been extracted from private and government lands. We will act if illegal extraction is found in the area,” said Giri.