Puri admin, police in search of mastermind of sand smuggling racket

Puri: After busting one of the biggest sand smuggling rackets following a raid at Sipasarubali area here on Thursday night, the Puri administration and police are now on the lookout for the mastermind of the illegal trade.

Following a rigorous interrogation, the nine truck drivers who were arrested during the joint raids also accepted their involvement in illegal extraction and transportation of sand.

“My owner and manager had sent us there with the trucks. We were loading the sand from a personal plot and transporting those to a construction site near Bata Mangala. We had loaded the vehicles for the first trip when we were arrested by the police,” said a driver Ajay Patnaik adding that he did not know about the contractor for whom the sand was being transported.

The Officer-in-charge of Baliapanda police station Bamadev Swain informed, “We have arrested nine drivers from the spot after the raids. We are examining the papers of the vehicles. There must be a mastermind who is operating the racket and we are investigating into it.”

Earlier, the Central Electricity Supply Utility of Odisha (CESU) Executive Engineer and officials of Baliapanda Electricity Sub Station had lodged a complaint regarding the sand mining in the region which had damaged the underground electric cabling of around Rs 23 lakh.

Following the complaint, an investigation was underway and subsequently the racket was busted on Thursday night.

“While excavating sand from the roadside, the underground electric cables passing through the area had got damaged. We had also lodged an FIR at Baliapanda police station following which the police and Puri administration officials conducted the raids,” informed CESU Executive Officer Shiv Swain.

Meanwhile, Puri Sub-Collector Bhabataran Sahu said that investigation is underway into the matter. He also assured legal action against those involved the illegal mining and transportation of sand.

On Thursday, a joint team of Puri Sub Collector, Executive Engineer of CESU, officials of Roads & Buildings (R&B) division of Works Department, Inspector-in-Charges of Baliapanda police station and Sea Beach Police Station conducted surprise raids at Sipasarubali area and seized 15 trucks, two JCBs and five Haiwa trucks engaged in sand smuggling. Police also nabbed nine truck drivers while six drivers managed to flee the spot.