Mukerian: The illegal mining case, already a hot issue in Punjab with elections around the corner, has taken a turn for the worse. A Punjab court has extended the judicial custody of Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s nephew, Bhupinder Singh ‘Honey’. The rural areas of the border belts are the worst affected, with farmers claiming that they have been forced to sell their lands to the mining mafia.
The anger and sorrow were clearly evident when The New Indian visited Mukerian and Pathankot areas. Agitated farmers told us that they were unable to retain their lands, as the mining mafias were involved in digging out adjacent patches of land, at least 100 to 200 feet deep in gross violation of laws. Earlier, SAD leader, Sukhbir Singh Badal, had brought up this issue after touring the region and filming the pits, which are now waterlogged underneath.
“We do not get enough water for farming because of the mafia’s activities. They render our land infertile by digging deep pits and extracting minerals from it. Deep trenches, as deep as wells, have been created and we are then forced to sell our lands to these people”, said Mahinder Kaur of Kanjupeer village in Mukerian, a victim of these illegal activities.
Another villager Saroj Kumari from Khuda Peer said that farmers opt to sell lands rather than keep these barren lands which generate no income.
A prominent social worker, Ranjot Singh Kuku pointed out that these mining activities pose a big threat to the Pong dam. He warned that if these activities are not stopped soon, the Pong dam would be destroyed, leading to massive destruction.
Villagers say that every party that has come into power in Punjab has been involved in these illegal activities, therefore making it difficult to pin point just one. “They come to these rural areas only to seek votes,” said Vipan Kumar, a shopkeeper in the border village of Punjab.
The situation here is so bad that people are even afraid of sending their children to school, as heavy vehicles carrying mining material constantly ply on these battered roads. Maninder Singh a youth from Bhuwnal says, there is nothing left in his village other than mining. There are no jobs, or even health and education facilities.
To make the matters worse, the constant sound of the crushers operating throughout the night has been giving the villagers sleepless nights. There is no one to listen to their woes. For most, it hardly matters who comes into power. For them, what matters most is a night of peaceful sleep.