State government’s failure to control illegal sand mining led to vigilante attack, activists say
Residents of riverside villages live in fear of criminal gangs plundering Goa’s riverbeds; locals say sand mafia gets protection from politicians, police, in exchange for bribes
MARGAO: Social and environmental activists have blamed the state government’s nonchalant attitude for the shooting that killed an illegal sand-mining worker in Curchorem on Thursday.
Activists claimed the government’s failure to halt illegal sand mining in the state’s riverbeds and the alleged link between sand miners and local politicians led to the shooting that killed one man and injured another.
Herald, in its August 26 and 27 editions, had highlighted rampant sand mining along river banks across Curtorim, Macazana, Girdolim, Chandor and Curchorem. Despite the High Court’s directive to the government to maintain strict surveillance over these hotspots, there was no police presence at the Curchorem site when the incident happened on Thursday.
“Today’s incident clearly shows that people are frustrated because the government has failed to stop illegal sand mining. As a result, they decided to take the law into their own hands, which is not fair,” said anti-sand mining campaigner Franky Rodrigues. Rodrigues also called for the protection of activists like him, who have suffered sand mafia attacks for their work on the ground.
Abhijit Prabhudesai told the Herald that people in their riverside villages fear that criminal gangs are illegally mining sand and making millions of rupees, with the full protection of the police, the harbor master and Goan politicians.
“Despite thousands of complaints, no authority is acting. We hope the High Court will now react and force the government to stop sand mining by implementing the simple measures we suggested some time ago,” said Prabhudessai.
He stressed that sand mining cannot be allowed until the rivers, their fish population and adjacent lands are restored to their original state.
Luel Fernandes, an environmentalist from Chandor, said the violent shooting exposed the connection between criminals and law enforcement. He said the Home Office’s apathy towards illegal mining which has flourished for years shows their reluctance to enforce the law. “How long do citizens have to wait to initiate contempt proceedings? Who will compensate for the theft or pay for the restoration of the damaged banks? asked Fernandes.