02 Sep 2022  |   06:17am IST

State government’s failure to check illegal sand mining led to vigilante attack, say activists

Residents of riverside villages live in fear of the criminal gangs plundering Goa’s riverbeds; locals allege that the sand mafia enjoys protection from politicians, police, in return for kickbacks
State government’s failure to check illegal sand mining led to vigilante attack, say activists

Team Herald

MARGAO: Social and environmental activists have blamed the State government’s lackadaisical attitude for the shooting incident that left a labourer engaged in illegal sand extraction at Curchorem dead on Thursday.

Activists charged that the government’s failure to halt illegal sand mining in the State’s riverbeds, and the alleged nexus between the sand miners and local politicians, resulted in the shooting that killed a man and injured another. 

Herald in its August 26 and 27 editions had highlighted the rampant sand extraction along river banks across Curtorim, Macazana, Guirdolim, Chandor and Curchorem. Despite the High Court’s directive to the government to keep a strict vigil on these hotspots, there was no police presence at the site in Curchorem when the incident occured on Thursday.

 “Today’s incident clearly shows that the people are frustrated because the government has failed to stop the illegal sand mining. As a result they have resorted to taking the law into their own hands, which is not right," said anti-sand mining activist Franky Rodrigues. Rodrigues also called for protection for activists like him, who have suffered attacks from the sand mafia for their work in the field. 

Abhijit Prabhudesai told Herald that locals from their riverside villages are living in fear of the criminal gangs illegally extracting sand and making crores of rupees, with full protection of the police, Captain of ports and Goan politicians. 

"Despite thousands of complaints, no authority takes action. We hope that the High Court will respond now and force the government to stop the extraction of sand by implementing the simple steps we had suggested a while ago,” said Prabhudessai. 

He stressed that sand mining cannot be permitted until the rivers, their fish population and adjoining lands are restored to their original state.

Luel Fernandes, an environmentalist from Chandor said that the violent shooting has exposed the nexus between the criminals and law enforcement authorities. He said the home department's apathy towards the illegal extraction that has flourished for years, shows their reluctance to enforce the law. “How long do the citizens have to wait in order to start contempt proceedings? Who will compensate for the theft, or pay for the restoration of the damaged river banks?” questioned Fernandes.