Sand policy a formality in Hassan; mafia continues its rule

Sand policy a formality in Hassan; mafia continues its rule

A sand policy is in place in the district to check illegal sand extraction and to protect the interest of both the people and natural resources. However, the district is in the grip of ‘sand mafia’ and the officials have turned a blind-eye towards it.

Three rivers — Yagachi, Hemavathy and Cauvery — flowing in the district are a boon not only for farmers but also for the sand mafia. The river beds are being dug up day and night for the past few years to satiate the greed of the mafia. At least a hundred sand-laden lorries leave for Bangalore every night. Political leaders of all parties are behind the mafia, so, officials think twice before taking any action. And, when they take action, the violators are alerted well in advance, through their sources.

The attempts by earlier Hassan Tahsildar Mathai to check illegal sand extraction caused friction with the police department. A few months back, the present tahsildar conducted a raid on a sand extraction centre. Local residents mobbed him. Some people also misbehaved with members of the media.

When the media reports on the illegal activity, police personnel conduct a raid and seize a couple of coracles. However, immediately new coracles are pressed into service by the extractors.

Mines and Geology Department official Hanumantha Reddy said 33 blocks have been identified in the district for sand extraction, but contracts have been issued only for five blocks. Out of them, two are being used for storing sand and two for transportaion. The contractor for Belur block is yet to install equipment.

“Sand transportation is mostly done during the night. Even though squads have been constituted for conducting raids and checking illegal sand extraction, they have no adequate protection. The support of local residents near sand extraction centres is a major threat,” he said.

The police department is not in a position to provide armed personnel for conducting raids. A couple of unarmed personnel do not have any guarantee of returning unhurt.

Earlier, the services of Homeguards were sought. Considering that almost all Homeguards are local residents, the authorities concerned withdrew their services as there was no security for their lives when they were alone.

The contract period of the five blocks has expired. But, the district administration has decided to continue their contract till the end of the monsoon instead of inviting new tenders.

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