Chennai: A CNN-IBN ground report has exposed how sand is being stolen by politically connected mafia despite a ban on sand mining in Tamil Nadu. And the rampant sand mining is happening in violation of a ban even in Srirangam, the constituency of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
The CNN-IBN investigation has exposed how trucks carry double the allocated load causing huge losses to the government.
The sand mining mafia is run by a person called Arumugasamy in collusion with government officials.
At the heart of the Chief Minister's constituency in Srirangam across the Kollidam river, several illegal sand bunds have been formed to stop the river flow and ensure availability of sand through the year.
All of it is illegal and is controlled by the mining mafia, and the stolen sand is worth thousands of crores of rupees. Several people including revenue officials, police officers and whistleblowers have even lost their lives while trying to stop the illegalities.
It was to protect river beds from excessive sand mining that the state banned private quarrying in 2003. But with strong political connections, it became easy for the sand mafia to circumvent the law with the connivance of authorities and how they do it seems simple on paper.
A truck is allowed to carry only two units of sand and is priced at Rs 630-650, but almost all trucks carry double the load and pay the loading contractors Rs 3000-4000.
With a total of about 30000-50000 lorries in the state, the excess stolen sand could be as much as two lakh tonnes a day worth hundreds of crores.
The kingpin in the sand mining mafia is allegedly Arumugasamy. Based out of Coimbatore, Arumugasamy who is little known in public almost single handedly manages the entire loading operations across the state.
With strong political connections, he allegedly operates several benami companies, through which sources say the excess money reaches him, and is then paid off to politicians, PWD officials, district authorities and the police to ensure the mafia flourishes. Lorry owners deny knowing Arumugasamy on camera but openly admit to the brazen robbery.
Putting an end to illegal sand mining was one of the poll promises made by Jayalalithaa before she took over as the Chief Minister. But one year later, there seems to be no improvement on the ground and illegal sand mining continues unabated.
With the government turning a blind eye to the illegal sand mining, the environmentalists turned to the court for relief and the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court recently ordered all quarries operating beyond five years to be shut with immediate effect. The other quarries have also been ordered to get environmental clearance within three months.