A reminder: Haryana DSP isn’t the first to be killed by mining mafia

Some 61,767 environment-related offences were committed in India according to the NCRB 2020 Report

By Karthik Krishna
Published: Wednesday 20 July 2022
The crime scene in Nuh.

Surender Singh, a 59-year-old deputy superintendent of police (DSP) was run over by a dumpster while trying to stop mining activities near Pachgaon village in Haryana's Nuh July 19, 2022.

His murder is only the latest in a string of killings of activists, journalists, law enforcers and whistle-blowers trying to uncover the menace of illegal mining in India.

Stones, coal, iron, other minerals and more frequently, sand are illegally mined in India. The murders are usually carried out by mafia, who in turn, are connected to power political leaders.

Here are some instances of people being killed while trying to uncover illegal mining over the years:

Narendra Kumar was an Indian Police Service officer like Surender Singh, who was killed by sand mafia in March 2012 in the Morena district of Madhya Pradesh. The Chambal river flows through Morena and its bed is made up of fine sand.

The New York Times, in an opinion piece in 2016, had highlighted how sand, a finite source was being extracted to the point of its disappearance.

“Sand is the essential ingredient that makes modern life possible. And we are starting to run out… Extracting the stuff is an estimated $70 billion industry,” the piece had read.

Kumar had been trying to stop the illegal mining of sand in the area where he was posted. He received information March 8, 2012 about illegally mined material being carried in a tractor.

Kumar reached the spot and asked the driver of the vehicle to stop. But the driver ran him over instead, killing him.

DK Ravi, 36, was the Additional Commissioner on deputation with the Commercial Tax department in Kolar district. He was found hanging from the ceiling fan in the bedroom of his private apartment in Tavarekere in south Bengaluru March 17, 2015.

It appeared that Ravi died by suicide. But he was known for taking on the local sand mafia of Karnataka and there were rumours of his death being linked to his aggressive stance on the mafia’s most powerful men.

Amit Jethwa was an environmentalist and social worker and worked actively in the Gir Forest area near Junagadh, Gujarat.

He discovered that illegal mining was being carried out in Gir and he charged Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament, Dinu Solanki as the main culprit. 

Jethwa had gone to meet his lawyer at the Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad July 20, 2010, a few days after filing a case against Solanki.

Two men on a motorcycle shot him at close range with a country-made pistol as he was leaving the court premises.

Goa-based mining activist Sebastian Rodrigues was slapped with a Rs 5 billion criminal defamation suit by the Fomento group of industries in January 2009 for “publishing false and defamatory articles” on his blog against the company’s mining operations.

 Death toll in India due to illegal sand mining since January 2019 

Zone Killing of Citizens/Villagers/Farmers Killing of Reporters/Activists Killing of Govt. officials Total
North 6 1 5 12
West & Central 3 NA 2 5
East 4 3 4 11
South 5 (+5*) 1 NA 11
Total 23 5 11 39

Source: SANDRP

According to data collected by SANDRP — South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, five journalists / activists, 11 government officials and 23 citizens / villages / farmers have been killed since January 2019 due to illegal sand mining in India.

According to the last report of the National Crime Records Bureau released in 2020, 61,767 environment-related offences were committed in India.

Of these, 199 offences related to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) were committed across the 29 states of the country. Maharashtra (33 offences), Meghalaya (93) and Uttar Pradesh (68) recorded the highest number of NGT-related offences.

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