Illegally mined sand worth Rs 8 crore had been seized from a close aide of Samajwadi Party bigwig Narendra Bhati; Green Tribunal directs night patrolling by police
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has pulled up the Uttar Pradesh government for not being able to recover stolen sand which had been seized by former sub-divisional magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar, Durga Shakti Nagpal, during the raids she carried out before her suspension. The sand was stolen after the tribunal's August 5 order banning sand mining without environmental clearance. Despite the orders of August 5, followed another hearing on August 14, in connection with illegal sand mining, the Uttar Pradesh government has failed to track illegally mined sand from the district.
Uttar Pradesh, on its part, said 18 persons were arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police on August 13 and 14. However, it appears that all the 18 persons involved in the sand mining were mostly small time contractors and labourers. Now, the accused have been told to appear before the green tribunal on September 26. The court was hearing a petition filed by NGT Bar association which sought a complete ban on illegal sand mining that has caused extensive harm to river beds.
Uttar Pradesh government's mining department official admitted to the bench headed by Justice (retd) Swatanter Kumar that 80 percent of the sand seized by Nagpal worth Rs 8 crore was stolen. Nagpal during a drive against illegal sand mining had seized the sand auctioned to Omendra Khari, a close aide of Samajwadi Party bigwig, Narendra Singh Bhati. However, within a span of 15 days, the seized sand measuring up to 2,00,777 cubic metre – which can easily meet the requirements of two mega sized housing projects –disappeared from the custody of Gautam Buddh Nagar district collectorate. Meanwhile, Nagpal around the same time was suspended for the demolition of an illegally constructed religious structure in the district by the state, citing communal tension.
District police officials told the bench that two FIRs were lodged followed by the arrest of 18 persons, consisting of small time contractors, farm land owners and labourers, who were involved in mining from Yamuna the river bank on August 13 and 14. The tribunal bench, not satisfied with the police action, asked the district senior superintendent of police to start making policy changes with regard to seizing vehicles and machinery associated with sand mining by staring night patrolling. The green tribunal bench has given the Uttar Pradesh government time till September 26 to prepare an action taken report. The 18 arrested persons have been summoned to appear in the court for violating the August 5 order of the tribunal.
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