Sand mining ravages farmland in villages

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NOIDA/GREATER NOIDA: Sand mafia in Gautam Budh Nagar have not just destroyed the floodplains along the Yamuna and Hindon rivers but also ravaged fertile land belonging to local farmers making them useless for agriculture. According to locals, this has led to shortage of vegetables ending in skyrocketing prices.

Local residents are scared that now that the government has “got Durga Sakthi Nagpal out of the way”, who will save them from the mafia which was back in business. “Noida, which was self-reliant on vegetables, now has to depend on the Azadpur sabzi mandi in Delhi,” said Dushyant Nagar, a farmer leader.

TOI visited a few villages where lands have reportedly been left useless after the mining. Villagers also said that on opposing the mafia they have faced attacks and threats to their lives. They alleged that the police and administration have so far ignored their repeated pleas for help. “The mafia resorts to violence in the dead of night whenever they face resistance to their illegal activities. We have witnessed many shootouts. They even beat up locals who complain to the police,” said Vikram, a resident of Garhi Smastipur, a hub for illegal sand mining.

“We were relieved when Durga Sakthi Nagpal went after the sand mafia. We need more honest officers like her,” said Mohamed Zaheed from Nangli Bazidpur village.

Land owners also said that besides illegally excavating sand, the mafia also dug up earth from their plots. A look at the vast area behind several high-rises under construction between Sectors 151 and 155, a 2 sq km stretch from the service lane of the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway till the Yamuna, has been left pockmarked with deep craters as earth had been removed. Every village in the vicinity has the same story to tell. Some poor farmers have also started working for the mafia.

Any opposition to illegal dredging is stopped with force. The recent murder of crusader Paleram Chauhan, a resident of Raipur village of Sector 126, proves this. Referring to his father’s documents against brazen mining around his village, Paleram’s son Ravinder Chauhan said his father had approached the Allahabad high court, the UP chief minister and local administration but to no avail.

In Greater Noida, illegal dredging is being carried out in Ghabara, Kambakshpur, Faleda, Tekpur, Jaganpur, among other areas. Even in these places, residents narrated incidents of attacks and physical abuse by the sand mining mafia on people opposing them.

Recently a group of villagers had to face illegal activity in Roja Yakubpur of Greater Noida. When they protested, shots were fired at them. Though many preferred to remain silent, a few reflected on Nagpal’s determination to clamp down on the offenders. “Because of the nexus between the officials, cops and mafia, our lives are at stake,” said Ved Pal Singh, a villager.


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